Takeover suitor 888 Holdings has insisted it was best placed to seal a tie-up with bwin.party amid signs it could be jilted at the altar in favour of a rival £1 billion proposal.

Brian Mattingley, the 888 boss, insisted that its agreement last month to buy bwin for £898.3 million in a cash-and-share deal had a "greater intrinsic value", with a larger cash element than that in the higher offer from Sportingbet owner GVC.

But he refused to rule out upping the bid should bwin be lured away by GVC, which has persistently tried to gatecrash the deal - and admitted he was likely to be in for a busy weekend as the saga reaches its denouement.

Meanwhile, GVC chief executive Kenneth Alexander said his firm was "determined that GVC will play an important role in the continuing consolidation of the online gaming sector" and expected to update the market soon on talks with bwin.

The battle comes in the midst of major changes in the gambling market - as Ladbrokes merges with Coral and a Paddy Power tie-up with Betfair in the offing.

Latest developments on the bwin battle came as online gaming firm 888 reported a 41% slump in half-year profit before tax, as the group was hit by tax changes and currency movements.

Mr Mattingley faced questions after bwin this week reported progress on talks with Isle of Man-based GVC and said that 888 "will be given due notice in the event that bwin.party proposes to recommend an offer from GVC".

The 888 executive chairman said the group remained "very confident we will get this transaction over the line" but admitted that "there will always be other options".

He insisted that the company remained "steadfast" in its pursuit of bwin, adding that its offer was still unanimously recommended by the bwin board, and that being trumped by GVC was not a "foregone conclusion".

"If the bwin.party board decides to switch to GVC, and only then, we will consider our options," Mr Mattingley said.

He said he was not prepared to comment when asked whether 888 could raise its offer but added he was "not going to have an easy Bank Holiday weekend".

First half results for 888 showed pre-tax profits down 41% to $20 million for the first half, hit by the $14.4 million impact of new online taxes in the UK.

It was also hit by $7 million costs linked to the bwin deal.

Revenues fell 2% to $220 million, blamed on new EU VAT charges and currency changes, but the group said underlying like-for-like revenues grew 9%.

Bwin, which also reported half-year results today, said underlying earnings were up 2% to €47.3 million but said that but for the impact of new UK online taxes, and EU VAT, there would have been a 24% rise.

Total revenue fell 6% to €296.5 million compared to a period last year including the World Cup. This factor also weighed on trading in recent weeks, in which daily net revenue has been down 9% compared to 2014.

Bwin reported a pre-tax profit of €3.1 million compared to a period a year ago when it had a €94 million loss, hit by a write-down of assets.

It added that while talks with GVC continued, there had been no change to its recommendation for 888's offer and documents on the offer were to be sent to shareholders shortly.

Meanwhile, GVC reported a 14% rise in underlying first-half earnings to €25.5 million.

Revenues rose 15% to €120.9 million and the group said current trading remained strong even with the absence of the World Cup.

Pre-tax profit fell 5% to €17.1 million partly due to the impact of €3.8 million related to the attempt to buy bwin.