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The gambling giant behind Ladbrokes and Coral has said that it plans to repay about £44 million to the Government that it claimed to keep its staff on furlough last year.
Entain said that the furlough scheme had helped it keep its 14,000 retail staff on full pay, while betting shops were closed for several months in the year.
Entain had previously resisted calls to repay the money, even as MPs called for it to do so as its profits were boosted by online stay-at-home gamblers during lockdown.
“We have kept the situation under review since we first made use of the scheme and are pleased to be in a position to repay these monies,” it said.
It added: “The scheme was a sensible and highly welcome policy intervention that helped us, as one of the country’s largest retailers, to maintain the livelihoods of more than 14,000 retail colleagues on full pay.”
But the group did not commit to repaying the nearly £58 million that it had claimed in furlough in 2020, the first year of the pandemic.
The business saw a 7% rise in net gaming revenue last year to £3.9 billion, while pre-tax profit more than doubled to £393.2 million.
Entain said that its retail business – the physical stores that had been closed for months – is on its way to getting back to pre-Covid levels. This is what let it repay furlough.
“All of our major markets have performed well,” said chief executive Jette Nygaard-Andersen.
“In particular, BetMGM in the US has delivered a five times increase in net gaming revenue versus the previous year, and is ready to challenge for the number one position across the markets in which it operates.
“Elsewhere, our retail business has recovered strongly and volumes have now returned to 90% of pre-Covid levels as restrictions have eased and customers have returned to our shops.”