Gaming firm Sportingbet today said wagers on sport events had taken a dive in its first quarter as the number of fixtures declined.

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The group, which is the target of a takeover bid by Britain’s biggest bookmaker William Hill, posted a 35% drop in revenue to £38.8 million between August 1 and October 31, as wager numbers dropped.

But chief executive Andrew McIver said this month’s trading had returned to normal and he was confident it is on target to meet expectations for the year.

Sportingbet last month backed a takeover offer from William Hill and said it would unanimously recommended a 61.1p per share proposal to its shareholders.

William Hill, in a joint proposal with European gaming company GVC, previously offered 52.2p a share, which valued Sportingbet at around £350 million.

But Sportingbet, which was founded in 1997 and now has more than 700,000 active customers in markets across 26 countries, rejected the initial approach.

William Hill has been given until December 4 to submit a formal bid for Sportingbet.

Across the group wagers were down 14% in the period to £594.3 million.

But Sportingbet performed well in Australia where the amount wagered grew 3.5%, despite lower year-on-year volumes in October.

It was boosted by the country’s largest annual betting event, the Melbourne Cup, a horse-racing event, where it saw an 8% increase in punters and 21% increase in the number of bets.

But the group did not fare so well in some parts of Europe, where wagers were down 57% in Spain and down 16% like-for-like in Greece.

The group also said a 49.5% decline in poker revenue reflected the structural decline in the online betting game.

Guernsey-based Sportingbet was set up by now venture capital investor Mark Blandford, who floated the firm in 2001 and left day-to-day operations in 2006.

The company is now the largest online sports betting provider in several countries, including Australia, Spain and Greece, while Paradise Poker is one of the world’s best known poker rooms.

William Hill has around 2,300 betting shops and accounts for about a quarter of the market.

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