Sports Caf矴o fold online gaming sites

Sports Caf矩s pulling out of online gambling after just over a year, blaming the US crackdown on Web betting

Sports Café is pulling out of online gambling after just over a year, blaming the US crackdown on Web betting.

The bar chain runs online poker and casino sites, offering games such as blackjack and roulette. Launching its online services last summer, chief executive Bill Balkou highlighted Sports Café’s bid to extend its brand within the sports leisure market and provide an additional revenue stream. But it has now pulled the plug “following recent developments in the online gaming sector”.

The company, currently the target of several takeover approaches, says withdrawal will save £250,000 in costs. The online gambling sites were backed by online and in-café campaigns. Most recently, it has been offering a 15% bonus on all money deposited in online gambling accounts.

At the start of the year, Sports Café opened its first branded sports betting shop in Birmingham to tie in with events shown in its bars. It has since gained a betting licence in Manchester and applied for a third in Glasgow.

The company also warned this week that delays in opening a Sports Café in Cardiff will hit its annual results. Originally expected to open in July, the first Welsh site has been delayed until 2007 by building problems.

The company has eight sites, including its flagship bar in London’s Haymarket, and says it plans to open more, as well as to develop its brand through related opportunities.

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