London: Britain's Betfair Group Plc took 50 million pounds (USD 79.4 million) of bets on the marathon Australian Open tennis final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadel, highlighting the growing popularity of in-play gaming on major sporting events. 

Horse racing was also a driver of growth, with races such as Kauto Star's victory in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day stimulating renewed interest in the sport, the world's biggest betting exchange said on Tuesday. 

"We had our best-ever Australian Open, which culminated in almost 50 million pounds (USD 79 million) of bets being placed on the final," said Acting Chief Executive Stephen Morana.        

Betfair, founded 12 years ago by one-time professional gambler Andrew Black and former JP Morgan trader Ed Wray, reported an 11 percent rise in third-quarter revenue to 85.3 million pounds, topping a consensus forecast for 84.8 million, according to a company-supplied poll of 10 analysts.    

 The company has struggled since it listed on the London Stock Exchange in October 2010, seeing its share price fall by a third on the back of intensifying competition from rivals such as William Hill Plc and concerns over the tightening of gambling laws in some parts of Europe. 

It has responded with the launch of a marketing campaign, "Don't settle for less", drawing attention to the better odds that it offers gamblers compared with bookmakers.  

"We're going back to basics. We've simply gone for the value message. Before you place a bet, why don't you check out Betfair, because we believe that in many, many instances we have better value than the competition," Morana said in an interview with Reuters.  

Betfair acts as an intermediary between gamblers wanting to place a bet or offer odds to others, taking a commission on their wins and generally offering better odds than traditional bookmakers which take bets directly from customers. 

On Monday, the company launched "Betfair Everywhere", which enables customers who download the programme to see Betfair odds appear against those of other betting firms when they visit competitors' websites. 

"Early signs are encouraging. Some of the early signs around lapsed customers coming back are very strong," Morana said.  

Morana, the company's finance director, is holding the CEO role on a temporary basis ahead of the arrival of Breon Corcoran, who will join the company in August from Irish bookmaker Paddy Power Plc.    

The company also confirmed Ed Wray would step down as chairman to be replaced by ex-Railtrack chief executive and city veteran Gerald Corbett. 

Shares in Betfair, which have risen by 45 percent in the past six months, were down 0.6 percent at 880 pence at 0835 GMT, trading marginally ahead of the wider market.