Australian watchdog investigates Entain over anti-money laundering controls

Australia’s financial crime watchdog is investigating Entain to check whether the London-listed betting company has complied with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing rules.

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac) said on Monday that the investigation into Entain, which owns sports betting brands including Ladbrokes and Coral, followed “an extensive” examination of bookmakers.

Nicole Rose, chief executive of the regulator, said all reporting companies must take their role in combating organised crime seriously, noting that they had a “responsibility to ensure they identify, assess and manage risks of money laundering and terrorism financing”.

Austrac added that it “will not hesitate to take action where suspected non-compliance is identified”.

Entain Australia, which last year accounted for about a tenth of group revenue, said it was “co-operating with the investigation which relates to the historical period from July 2016 to June 2020”. Shares in Entain were flat at £12.30 in early afternoon trading on Monday.

The investigation is part of a broader crackdown on the gambling and casino sectors in recent years in an attempt to stamp out financial crime.

Australia’s largest casino operator, Crown Resorts, was sued in March by Austrac for allegedly breaching money-laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws.

The watchdog alleged the breaches were “widespread and serious” and said some of Crown’s customers had brought in shoeboxes stuffed with cash for gambling. Crown said it had co-operated with the investigation.

Austrac’s investigation into Entain is the latest blow for the FTSE 100 company. It was hit with a £17mn fine last month, the largest ever penalty issued by the UK’s gambling regulator, for anti-money laundering and social responsibility failures.

The penalty comprised £14mn for failing licensing standards at LC International, which runs Entain’s gaming websites. Ladbrokes Betting & Gaming, which operates about 2,700 gambling shops across the UK, was given a £3mn fine.

Andrew Rhodes, chief executive of the UK Gambling Commission, said at the time that the investigation highlighted “serious failings”. These included failing to intervene sufficiently to protect customers at risk of gambling-related harm.

Ladbrokes Coral was also fined £5.9mn in 2019 for compliance failings between 2014 and 2017. The company was taken over by GVC Holdings in 2018 in a £4bn deal and was renamed Entain in 2020.

Entain is one of the largest betting groups globally. It has more than 4,400 betting outlets in the UK and Europe, and has a joint venture with MGM Resorts in the US. It owns sports betting brands, including bwin and Eurobet, and gaming brands such as Partypoker and PartyCasino.

The group made a failed attempt last year to acquire part of Australian operator Tabcorp in an all-cash deal, before Tabcorp pursued a demerger.


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