In 2000 Ladbrokes took its products and services online with the launch of ladbrokes.com. Given the growing emphasis on remote gaming, the company sold most of its casino interests to Gala. In contrast, the expansion of the hotel base continued and the Hilton Group completed the £620 million acquisition of Scandic Hotels AB.
By 2003 the Ladbrokes division of Hilton Group had a UK retail estate of close on 2000 shops, with the annual spend on new outlets, in-store design and technology running at around £50 million.
Towards the end of 2005 Hilton Group’s management announced that agreement had been reached to sell the Hilton International Hotel division to Hilton Hotel Corporation, its US corporate cousin. The deal reunited Hilton’s 2,800-strong hotel network some 40 years after the asset split and gave shareholders an epic £4 billion special payout. The company’s name reverted to Ladbrokes PLC.
The company developed numerous overseas betting opportunities, including in China and Italy. The emergence of new sports betting regulation in the Madrid region provided the catalyst for investment in Spain and Ladbrokes launched a joint retail venture under the ‘Sportium’ brand with Cirsa Slot Corporation.
The Gambling Act 2005, which came into effect in 2007, saw betting shop opening hours extended to between 7am and 10pm, accompanied by the removal of restrictions on radio and TV advertising. Within a matter of weeks, Ladbrokes launched a £5 million national TV advertising campaign: a first for the company and for the bookmaking industry.
The same year also saw the divestment of Vernons football pools: sold for £47 million.