Entain, the gaming giant which owns Ladbrokes, is to repay £44m of the furlough money it claimed during the pandemic, but keep £57.5m.
Carolyn Harris MP called it “absolutely shameful” that Entain was not repaying it all, despite soaring profits.
The group made £393m in pre-tax profit in 2021, up 125% on the year before.
It said the furlough scheme had helped to protect 14,000 jobs, and a “more certain medium-term outlook” made the partial repayment possible.
Entain has around 3,000 betting shops in the UK branded Ladbrokes or Coral – which it had to close for large parts of 2020 and 2021 because of coronavirus restrictions.
However, punters did not stop betting, they simply moved online. Entain’s online business grew rapidly, and helping to push the group’s revenues up 8% last year.
In response to a News story in January, MPs called on Entain to repay the money it had received under the furlough scheme, with former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith saying the company should “immediately hand the money back to the UK taxpayer”.
Entain has said previously that the situation was “under review”. On Thursday, it announced that it would return the £44m it claimed in 2021, but keep the £57.5m it claimed in 2020.
Labour MP Carolyn Harris, chair of the Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group, said; “Given that this company made hundreds of millions of pounds in profit last year directly from gamblers who lost money, it is absolutely shameful that they have also taken from taxpayers, and that they have not repaid the full furlough amount.”
Entain said in a statement: “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.
“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.”
One of Entain’s rivals, William Hill, also had to close its betting shops, but it returned the £24.5m furlough it claimed in 2020, and took no more, citing the “strength of the post-lockdown recovery”.
Bookmakers Betfred claimed at least £46.6m from the furlough during the pandemic, despite making £205m profit in their latest accounts.
In January, a spokesperson for the firm said: “Thanks to the government’s Job Retention [furlough] 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.”