The minister in charge of UK gambling issues has cited “extremely troubling issues” around online gambling companies as he answered parliamentary questions on the upcoming review of the Gambling Act.
A white paper examining issues, plus the 16,000 submissions received, should be available in the “very near future”, said Chris Philp, undersecretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, last week.
Philp cited troubling practices by online gambling companies which lead “people down a path to a very dark place that sometimes leads to suicide”, he said, without giving details.
Separately in the UK, Entain’s Ladbrokes unit has claimed nearly £102m from the government furlough programme, despite the company’s online growth.
Ladbrokes Betting & Gaming claimed £57.5m in furlough funding in 2020 for its closed retail shops — aid meant to help companies cope with COVID-19 shutdowns — according to a Companies House report filed last week.
An Entain spokesman also confirmed a BBC report that it received a further £44m in 2021.
In March 2021, the company said it also got £2m to £3m in aid from Ireland.
In contrast, rival William Hill returned £24.5m to the government in August 2020 and Flutter Entertainment’s Paddy Power never took any furlough support.
Last June, the Financial Times said nearly £1bn had been returned to the Treasury by companies including Primark, Halfords and Games Workshop.
An Entain spokesman said the furlough funding helped keep 14,000 staff at full pay.
“Whilst the virus is still with us and the outlook, although improving, is still far from certain, the board will continue to keep the situation under review,” he said.
The Ladbrokes unit reported a loss of £50.5m in 2020, from profit of £462.8m in 2019, according to Companies House.
But the parent company’s EBITDA for the year rose 11 percent to £843m as online growth offset retail declines.
Another bookmaker, Betfred, which operates almost 1,200 betting shops, accepted £28.1m in furlough funding in the year ended September 27, 2020, according to filings.
In addition, it got at least £18.5m between December 2020 and May 2021, according to the BBC, which cited HM Revenue & Customs data.
“Thanks to the government’s Job Retention Scheme, we have not had to make a single redundancy due to the pandemic and we will continue to invest in our shops on the high street,” a Betfred spokesman told the BBC.