Ladbrokes REFUSES to return nearly £102m it claimed from furlough scheme despite online gambling boom after William Hill repaid £24.5m
- Bookmaker made furlough claims of £57.5million in 2020 and £44million in 2021
- Despite shop closures, firm managed revenues of more than £681million in 2020
- However it made a post-tax loss of £48million, according to Companies House
Ladbrokes is refusing to return nearly £102million from the Government’s Covid furlough scheme, despite an online gambling boom during the pandemic.
Newly published accounts show the bookmaker, which had to close its stores during England’s three national lockdowns, made claims worth £57.5million in 2020.
The firm, which along with sister firm Coral operates around 2,700 betting shops in the UK, then claimed a further £44million in 2021.
Despite the closures of its betting shops and the cancellation of a number of high profile sporting events during the pandemic, the company still managed revenues of more than £681million in 2020.
But after costs and taxes this turned into a £48million loss, according to accounts published on Companies House.
Rival firms such as William Hill, which last year said it expected a £30million retail loss due to shop closures, have since repaid millions of pounds worth of furlough payments.
But Ladbrokes, which is owned by global betting giant Entain, has so far declined to repay the furlough money.
Bosses said the firm had opted to claim from the scheme – which it had been entitled to as a closed non-essential business – to keep employing its 14,000 betting shop staff on full pay.
A spokesman for Entain said: ‘The furlough 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.
Ladbrokes (pictured: Library image of a Ladbrokes store) is refusing to return nearly £102million from the Government’s Covid furlough scheme, despite an online gambling boom during the pandemic
The firm, which along with sister firm Coral operates around 2,700 betting shops in the UK, then claimed a further £44million in 2021. The scheme was announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak (pictured) ahead of the first Covid lockdown
‘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.’
Entain enjoyed huge boosts in profits during the Covid-19 crisis as bored households turning to online gambling and casino games during lockdowns.
Late last year it was approached for a possible takeover, valuing the business at around £16 billion, although US rival Draftkings ultimately walked away.
However the company’s betting shops, which also include Coral, were closed for long stretches during 2020.
Bosses said the firm had opted to take the furlough money (pictured: A stock image of the Treasury in London) – which it was entitled to as a closed non-essential business – to keep employing its 14,000 betting shop staff on full pay
They also missed out on revenues due to sporting events being cancelled, including a short month-long postponement of Premier League football.
As a result, revenues for 2020 fell heavily from £983million to £681 million.
However, a £462 million pre-tax profit turned into a £48 million loss.
All companies impacted by the pandemic were allowed to claim from the Government’s Covid furlough scheme.
However, some that claimed have subsequently returned the cash after results during the period were better than expected – particularly for businesses with strong online operations alongside shuttered high street operations.
Revenues for Entain in 2020 hit £3.6 billion – unchanged on the previous year with pre-tax profits of £114 million.
More recently, the company revealed further strong growth in its global online betting and gaming business – recording 23 consecutive months of rising revenues in the division.
Rival William Hill repaid £24.5 million in furlough money claimed, whilst Paddy Power owner Flutter did not make any claims for furlough cash – although both have a smaller number of sites compared to Ladbrokes and Coral.
William Hill – which was last year bought by US casino giant Caesars Group in a £2.9billion deal – said its profits crashed 91 per cent to £9.1million as its 1,414 betting shops were hit by repeated lockdowns and disruption to sports events.
William Hill – which was last year bought by US casino giant Caesars Group in a £2.9billion deal – said its profits crashed 91 per cent to £9.1million as its 1,414 betting shops were hit by repeated lockdowns and disruption to sports events
The group revealed last year that overall revenues for 2020 would be £1.3billion – 16 per cent below 2019.
It said it expected a £30million year-on-year loss at its retail division due to the challenges of trading at its betting shops during the pandemic.
Last year Ladbrokes and Coral announced plans to close hundreds of bookies as gamblers flocked online during the pandemic.
Entain announced last March that it could close up to 300 of its 3,000 shops in 2021 after a boom in online betting.
Speaking in March last year, Entain finance chief Rob Wood told analysts: ‘We have around 100 closures per year in the UK from a starting point of 3,000. It wouldn’t surprise me if we saw two or three years of closure come into one this year.
‘There is a reason for retail to exist. Customers like the social side and watching sport on a big screen, so we’re hopeful we’ll see most of our customers come back.’
Healthcare giants ‘must repay their furlough millions’: Private firms helping NHS during Covid pandemic face calls to hand back fortune they pocketed while seeing bumper profits
Private healthcare firms contracted to help the NHS in the pandemic pocketed millions of pounds in furlough cash while recording bumper profits.
Last night there were calls for the global multi-billion pound companies who cashed in on the generous Government support scheme to pay back the cash they took.
The NHS signed a series of contracts worth more than £2billion with private hospital firms in the first year of the pandemic to ease the burden of the crisis.
Yet the companies delivered less than 0.1 per cent of the nation’s Covid care and took on fewer NHS patients than the year previously, the Centre for Health and the Public Interest (CHPI) said.
The pandemic has led to soaring profits and increased revenues for these companies at a time when the NHS is on its knees and waiting lists are growing by the day (stock image)
The think-tank’s analysis of HM Revenue and Customs figures has revealed private health bodies collected as much as £72million in furlough support – enough to pay the salaries of more than 2,000 nurses.
The NHS paid HCA Healthcare as much as £190million in the pandemic, but the firm also claimed furlough money worth up to £3million.
Accounts show the US parent company increased its profit margin nearly 40 per cent to £7billion. Australian firm Ramsay Health Care claimed up to £525,000 despite receiving £385million from the NHS.
The company’s income increased 15 per cent last year and its profit margin rose 13 per cent to £100million.
CHPI director David Rowland said: ‘It is increasingly clear that the mainly foreign-owned private hospital sector in the UK has the appearance of having gamed the pandemic to its advantage.
‘They have received billions of pounds out of the NHS budget to cover their operating costs, while being required to provide very little support for the NHS in return and have furloughed staff to reduce their wage bills.
This has led to soaring profits and increased revenues for these companies at a time when the NHS is on its knees and waiting lists are growing by the day.’
Aspen Healthcare also claimed £800,000 while it took £55million from the health service. The London-based firm’s accounts for 2020 show its revenue increased from £83million to £89million, while it made £5.7million profit.
Labour MP Stella Creasy said: ‘This is companies using our NHS as a cashpoint because of Covid. The furlough scheme was meant to keep businesses from going bust.
‘Some of these guys have made billions in profit. There are businesses on their knees this Christmas because of Omicron.
‘These health firms have to play their part and pay back public money they were given to stop them going out of business.
‘For any responsible business committed to the NHS, this is the least they could do.’ UK medical giant Nuffield Health, a not-for-profit charity, claimed the bulk of the furlough cash, collecting £64.5million despite taking more than £224million from the NHS.
Only UK firm Spire Healthcare has repaid £220,000 it received.
In total, more than 1.3million firms claimed £70billion in furlough support to 11.1million workers’ wages. To date, £1.3billion has been paid back. Not all of the private companies on a NHS pandemic contract claimed furlough.
Sara Gorton, head of health at trade union Unison, said: ‘During times of crisis, everyone needs to pull together for the greater good. Returning money to the Exchequer would be the right thing to do.’ The Treasury would not say whether the Chancellor had asked any health firms for money back.
A spokesman said: ‘Furlough provided a lifeline to more than a million businesses across the UK and protected nearly 12million jobs, with businesses passing all the money they received from the scheme on to employees.’
A HCA Healthcare spokesman said: ‘We furloughed some of the team whose roles did not directly impact patient safety or the delivery of care to patients. We used furlough on a partial and temporary basis and limited its use to where it was necessary.’
Aspen said it used furlough to protect the jobs of a small number of staff, adding: ‘We delivered thousands of outpatient clinics, diagnostic scans and time-critical operations to NHS patients.’
Nuffield Health said curbs forced its fitness and wellbeing centres to close, impacting 6,000 of its 16,000 staff. It added these workers were furloughed ‘to support the charity’s financial sustainability and protect the jobs of our people’.
Source: Read Full Article