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Ladbrokes enters Australia with online bookmaker deal

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Ladbrokes PLC has entered the Australian market by buying the owner of online bookmaker Bookmaker.com.au and sports marketing firm Panda Gaming.

Ladbrokes said on Wednesday it had agreed to pay an initial A$22.5 million, or about 13 million pounds, for Gaming Investments, giving it a low cost entry into the regulated and growing Australian sports betting market.

Launched in February 2012, Bookmaker.com.au achieved about A$400 million in stakes for the year to 30 June 2013, Ladbrokes said.

Chief Executive Richard Glynn said the move was in line with the company's strategy to extend its geographic reach to key regulated markets. UK retail accounts for 71 percent of Ladbrokes group revenue compared to 43 percent for its rival William Hill .

William Hill agreed to buy Australian online betting firm Tom Waterhouse NT for up to A$110 million last month, following its acquisition of Sportingbet PLC's Australian arm for A$670 million earlier this year.

The Australian online gambling market is estimated to be worth around A$6 billion ($5.4 billion) annually. Sportingbet, Irish bookmaker Paddy Power and Australia's Tabcorp are the three leading players.

(Reporting by Paul Sandle, Editing by Brenda Goh)

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