Entain sets aside 585 million stg for potential settlement over bribery probe

(Reuters) – British gambling firm Entain said on Thursday it had set aside 585 million pounds ($744.5 million) for a potential settlement with British authorities in relation to an investigation into potential bribery offences at its former Turkish business.

The investigation by the UK’s tax authority, HMRC, included a review of the gambling firm’s former Turkey-facing business, where Entain said historical misconduct involving former third-party suppliers and ex-employees of the group may have occurred.

The owner of Ladbrokes and Coral betting shops has been in talks over a deferred prosecution agreement with the Crown Prosecution Service and said it was likely to be able to agree on a resolution.

The settlement, which would be paid over four years will impact the company’s bottom line across the periods, Chief Finance Officer Rob Wood said.

Entain expects judicial approval in the fourth quarter.

Shares in the company had fallen as much as 3% in morning trade.

HMRC in 2019 started investigating a number of former third-party suppliers relating to the processing of payments for online betting and gaming in Turkey. Entain, formerly known as GVC, sold the business in 2017.

The investigation had also caused troubles for bookmaker 888, whose licence to operate in the UK was under review by the GB Gambling Commission (GBGC) after shareholder FS Gaming proposed to appoint candidates who previously held top roles at GVC to the executive management of 888.

The candidates held senior positions during the time which is under investigation by the authorities.

Separately, Entain, which also operates online brands bwin and partypoker said it expects core profit for the year to be in the range of 1 billion pounds to 1.05 billion pounds.

Analysts on average had expected core profit to be about 1.03 billion pounds, according to a company compiled consensus.

The gambling firm reported a 14% rise in net gaming revenue for the six months through June helped by record level of online active customers.

($1 = 0.7857 pounds)

(This story has been corrected to drop the reference to tax authorities in paragraph 1)

(Reporting by Radhika Anilkumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Milla Nissi and David Evans)