Bookmaker Ladbrokes, facing regulatory and tax pressures in its UK home market, has expanded its Australian business by buying online betting company Betstar for £12.4m.

The deal follows a similar-sized acquisition last September when Ladbrokes - Britain's second-biggest bookmaker - bought online company and launched a website in Australia.

Rival European bookmakers including Paddy Power and William Hill have been growing in Australia, a country with a strong sporting culture and where gambling rules are clear cut.

Betstar has around 40,000 registered customers and generated earnings of A$12.9m in the year to March.

"Australia represents one of the most vibrant regulated sports betting markets in the world and today's announcement will see us add new customers to our growing presence," said Damian Cope, managing director of Ladbrokes' international arm.

The UK bookmaking industry is facing a higher tax bill, both on cash-generative gambling machines in high street shops and also targeting online betting.

An increase in duty on gaming machines, to take effect next year, will cost the industry £75m while closing a tax loophole that has allowed operators to base operations offshore in places like Gibraltar will add an annual figure of around £300m to the tax burden.

Ladbrokes has also struggled to keep pace with William Hill's growth online and its chief executive Richard Glynn faces pressure to improve the performance if he is to keep his job.