UPDATE 1-Gambling firm 888 lifts guidance again on strong online betting

(Adds background on online gambling, CEO comment)

Dec 2 (Reuters) - Gambling group 888 Holdings said on Wednesday its annual core profit and revenue will exceed its prior expectations, the company’s third forecast raise this year, as it benefits from a shift to online betting amid coronavirus restrictions.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted sporting events, online betting has surged as people try out different avenues to keep themselves occupied during lockdowns.

“(Second-half) performance continues to reflect strong FTD (first time deposit) trends in line with the Group’s recreational customer focus as well as the structural shift towards online services being seen across several consumer-facing industries,” Chief Executive Officer Itai Pazner said.

The company’s shares were up 2.4% at 279 pence by 1252 GMT, extending a near 70% jump so far in the year.

UK-based 888, which guided to a 45% jump in revenue, also said it has signed three multi-year deals to launch in the U.S. states of Colorado, Indiana and Iowa next year as it ramps up its presence in the country.

Tighter regulations in the UK and European countries including Germany have prompted British gambling groups to expand in the United States, where states are now opening up to sports gambling.

In its last fiscal year, 888 saw a 90% surge in revenue in the United States.

Given its plans to invest more in the market next year, 888 said its 2021 expectations were unchanged. (Reporting by Priyanshi Mandhan; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)