Posted on: November 27, 2023, 06:55h. 

Last updated on: November 27, 2023, 06:55h.

This past May, global gaming giant Entain announced that it was going to have to pay a massive fine for bribery charges related to its prior operations in Turkey. It began preparing for the financial penalty, and has now agreed to pay £585 million (US$729 million) to close the case.

A stage and meeting space in Entain's offices
A stage and meeting space in Entain’s offices. The gaming company will pay a massive fine to settle bribery claims linked to its prior operations in Turkey. (Image: TSK Group)

The case dates back to when Entain was known as GVC, which operated the Sportingbet sports betting brand in Turkey from 2011 to 2017. Years later, the UK’s HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) office uncovered indications of bribery and other issues that had allowed GVC to operate in the country.

Last Friday, the Ladbrokes owner and BetMGM partner confirmed that it had settled with HMRC and that it would pay the fine. In doing so, it’s able to avoid prosecution for the crimes, which could have potentially cost it its gaming license.

Turkey Costs Entain Big Losses

Entain (then as GVC) got out of Turkey in 2017 when it sold its operations, under the Headlong Limited brand, in the country to Ropso Malta Limited. The company, at the time, was Entain’s go-to IT services provider in Turkey.

That deal was going to be worth around $178 million, provided Ropso could meet certain goals. However, when Entain announced it was going to acquire Ladbrokes Coral, it decided to waive the amount. It was an effort, at least on paper, to appease regulators and find quick approval for the acquisition.

Shortly after, in 2019, media outlets began reporting that some people within the upper ranks of Entain still had financial ties to Ropso. They denied the allegations, but the rumors led to an investigation by HMRC.

That investigation became larger when the tax authority found clues that some people within Entain, as well as companies linked to it, may have participated in bribery schemes. That eventually led to the deal between HMRC and Entain, with the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) ready to press charges if they didn’t settle.

All in all, looking back over the past 12 years, Turkey cost Entain more than it would have likely made in twice that time. The company will have paid over $1 billion in lost acquisition proceeds and fines before it can officially forget about the country.

In addition to the nine-figure fine, Entain may also have to pay £20 million (US$25.21 million) as a charitable donation and £10 million (US$12.6 million) to cover the costs HMRC and the CPS incurred.

A UK court will have the final say on the awards when it reviews the case on December 5. If nothing changes, Entain will pay off the debt in regular installments over four years.

Entain Becomes Questionable Target

Entain’s big push over the last year has been in the mergers and acquisitions department. It has spent big money – and leveraged itself even more to do so – buying a number of companies.

Entain was trading on the London Stock Exchange at about £1,380 (US$1,739) on August 10. That was just before shareholders approved the company’s purchase of Polish sports betting operator STS. Since then, it’s been all downhill.

By September 25, the company’s stock was £918 (US$1,157). It has bounced up and down a little over the past couple of months, but never anything significant.

As of today, the price has dropped to £843.16 (US$1,062). That means investors have experienced a -35% return over the past year.

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