Laurence Escalante hits the dividend jackpot with huge payout after stellar half for Virtual Gaming Worlds

Daniel Newell
The Nightly
2 Min Read
Laurence Escalante has pocketed a $360 million dividend payout.
Laurence Escalante has pocketed a $360 million dividend payout. Credit: Abigail Harman/TheWest

Online gambling entrepreneur Laurence Escalante will pocket a multimillion-dollar payout as his Virtual Gaming Worlds empire continues its stellar run of success.

The Perth-based businessman owns 70 per cent of privately owned and US-focused VGW Holdings, which on Thursday reported that he is set to add to his $3.75 billion fortune when the company pays out a third financial year dividend of 23¢ a share, according to the Australian Financial Review.

That brings the total payout to $360 million over the year at 57¢ a share.

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VGW in March reported revenue of $2.8b for the six months to the end of December — up from $2.2b in the same period the year before.

It recorded an after-tax profit of $207 million, compared to $168.9m a year earlier.

The company is one of Australia’s fastest growing businesses, after booming demand for its digital poker machines and card games during COVID-19 restrictions in the US ignited revenues.

In 2018, VGW turned over just $173m in a six-month period. Three years later, it was doing $1.54b.

Armed with a Maltese gaming licence, VGW uses a sweepstakes model to comply with laws banning internet gambling in most American States.

Customers buy virtual gold coins that allow them to play VGW’s games but have no outside value.

But buyers of most gold coin packages also get bonus “sweeps coins”, which as well as being used to play the games are redeemable for cash in most of the US and Canada.

The model is not without challenges, with a number of court actions launched in the US seeking to block its games.

VGW paid $US11.75m early last year, without any admission of wrongdoing, to settle a class action that alleged it was breaching Kentucky’s gambling laws.

The regulatory risk is perceived to a be a potential hurdle to the company’s long-held ambitions to list in the US.

VGW is tipping continued growth in revenue and “modest EBIT margin improvements”, the AFR reported.

In May, Mr Escalante — who is famous for his love of fast cars — announced his shift into the luxury supercar business with an initial offering of 19 top-end vehicles as part of a new commercial operation.

The launch of Lance East Exotics — comprising a luxury wholesale and retail motor dealership — forms part of his family office Lance East Office group.

The cars available for sale include three Bugattis — including a 2023 Chiron Super Sport — and three Ferraris and three Lamborghinis. Many of the cars have hardly been driven, with only about 1100km on the Chiron.

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