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Entain demands EUR104 Million from former BetCity owners

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BetCity’s former owners claim that Entain not only knew about the KSA’s investigations but had also a severe impact on their earnings.

BetCity’s former owners are a group of members from the Singels clan who have filed a counterclaim. Former CEO Melvin Bostelaar, and former Marketing Director Robert Kooiman are also included.

This is in response to Entain’s initial accusation that the Dutch-facing businesses was valued at EUR156m less than originally assumed due to undeclared regulatory investigation.

Entain purchased BetCity in January 2023 for EUR450m, allowing it to access the Dutch market. BetCity is one of 10 initial licensees for the Netherlands.

Entain filed a claim for compensation in January of this year after two cases involving regulatory issues were revealed. Entain claimed that it had no knowledge of BetCity’s investigations when it purchased the company.

Entain stated in a document that was obtained by CasinoNieuws.nl that BetCity’s former owners had signed documents stating they did not know of any regulatory investigations. According to the filing, several BetCity employees knew about these cases but failed to disclose this information.

Both investigations were led by the Dutch gambling regulator Kansspelautoriteit.

Entain “ultimately” knew about BetCity’s investigations

The plaintiffs claim that Entain was aware of investigations taking place. It was in the 2022-2023 acquisition phase.

On 19 March 2024, the former owners of BetCity lodged a counterclaim at the High Court of Justice of England and Wales. It is seeking EUR143m in total from Entain Holdings Netherlands BV and Entain Holdings UK Limited.

BetCity received two separate investigations in April 2022. They were related to the sending of promotional emails by BetCity to young adults. The Dutch laws were violated and a fine of EUR400,000 was imposed.

In May 2022 the second investigation was launched. It focused on deficiencies in anti-money laundering measures and terrorist funding. BetCity received a fine of EUR3m due to such failures.

The plaintiffs in the counterclaim highlight the fact that BetCity informed Entain in multiple messages in November and December 2022 of the investigations ongoing.

Emails, phone conversations, and a 17 November 2022 meeting were all part of these investigations. They took place from the signing the agreement for acquisition in June 2022 to the completion of the deal in January 2023.

In the documents relating to Entain’s counterclaim, we understand that, on 10 December, 2022, Entain sent a formal letter expressing its concern about these two investigations.

Earn-outs have decreased due to changes in BetCity’s structure

Entain has made a number of adjustments to BetCity’s operations after the acquisition, and Vic Walia’s appointment as CEO. Entain says that these adjustments were made in order to comply with Dutch law, which Entain maintains BetCity still violated.

In their counterclaim, however, the former owners group (the plaintiffs) denies this categorically. BetCity allegedly acted in accordance with the WWFT (the Netherlands’ Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention Act) on and after the date of agreement.

BetCity’s adjusted business operation resulted in a loss of EUR22m compared to what was projected for former owners as part the earn-out. The plaintiffs suffered a EUR83m loss as a result.


Next?

Both cases will be heard by the High Court of Justice of UK. Although court dates for the two cases have yet to be set, it is expected that this will be a lengthy and complex saga.

Rumours about Entain’s possible sale of BetCity have started to circulate due to the controversy surrounding the case. The Financial Times had reported earlier in March that Entain was open to selling BetCity and other assets.

This news follows the announcement of a net loss for 2023, totalling PS936.5m in its annual report on 7th March.

Entain understandably wants to minimize its exposure due to the costs of its acquisition campaign.

Financial Times reports that operator brands which are not integrated directly into the platform of the company will receive priority in the sale. These brands accounted for almost a third (or more) of the net gaming revenue in the first six months of 2018.

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