Flutter Entertainment to Pony Up $4m to SEC Over Russia Payments

  • The SEC accused PokerStars ex-owner Stars of violating foreign bribery law
  • The $4m settlement is a legacy issue as Flutter acquired Stars after the alleged violations
  • Flutter pulled PokerStars out of Russia following the Ukraine invasion
  • Flutter shareholders will vote on listing the firm on the US stock exchange in April
Flutter on phone
Flutter has agreed to pay a $4m settlement over alleged foreign bribery violations made against the Stars Group, the ex-owner of its sub-brand PokerStars. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Violations by PokerStars’ ex-owner

Flutter Entertainment, the Dublin-based owner of several popular gambling brands, has agreed a $4m legacy settlement to clear one of its subsidiaries, PokerStars, of violations committed by its former owner.

breached foreign bribery law

Flutter agreed to pay the fine to settle allegations by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that the processing of payments to consultants based in Russia breached foreign bribery law.

The SEC alleged that between 2015 and 2020, PokerStars’ previous owner, the Stars Group, paid about $8.9m to the consultants as part of a push for a legal poker market in Russia. The payments were supposedly varied, ranging from New Year’s gifts to Russian government officials, to the settling up of a consultant’s payments to a Russian state agency.

Cooperation gets settlement done

“This is a legacy issue, related to a period prior to Flutter’s ownership of the Stars Group,” the Wall Street Journal cited a company spokesman as saying. Flutter acquired the Toronto-based Stars Group in 2020, making the alleged violations an inherited issue, but one that nevertheless required a legal resolution.

While not admitting or denying the allegations, Flutter said it was “pleased” about the closure the settlement represented. Flutter also highlighted that once it took over Stars it made:

significant changes to implement a framework of controls.”

The SEC stated Flutter had been cooperative, shared evidence from its own internal investigation, and also encouraged entities outside SEC jurisdiction to provide information.

Flutter looking west

Flutter suspended all PokerStars services in Russia after the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, one of the first in an exodus of major brands from Russia. The global brand is also getting closer to a listing on a US stock exchange, given its US dominance through the FanDuel sportsbook.

FanDuel’s market share of the US sports betting market was a staggering 50% in the fourth quarter of 2022, shooting the US revenue of Flutter up 67% to $3.2bn.

The gambling group announced in February that it was seriously considering such a move. In April, Flutter will consult its shareholders on a potential secondary listing in the US.

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