Gambling: Bingo operators' number finally comes up

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The Independent Online

Bingo club operators celebrated as the Chancellor said the duty on their earnings would be reduced from 22 per cent to 20 per cent in the spring.

Bingo companies, which have been hit hard by the smoking ban and changes in machine regulations, were furious when Alistair Darling raised the tax on their gross profits from 15 per cent to 22 per cent in April.

The industry lobbied hard to get him to reduce the burden in line with what other gambling businesses pay. While the increase in duty was somewhat offset by the Government ditching VAT on playing bingo and other forms of gaming in the April Budget, the industry said the 22 per cent duty had cost it several million pounds and was responsible for a drop in clubs from 700 to about 590.

Paul Talboys, the chief executive of the Bingo Association, said: "We are pleased that the Treasury has listened and digested the actual 'facts' of bingo tax and revised the gross profit tax rate.

"But the reasons for its delayed implementation until the next Budget is not apparent and will mean that the much-needed benefit, particularly for smaller independent clubs, will not be felt until April 2010. I only hope that they can all make it."

Rank Group, which runs 103 Mecca Bingo clubs, said the reduction would add £2.5m to its full-year operating profits. Ian Burke, the chief executive, said: "This is a step in the right direction, but it is still not clear why Britain's bingo clubs should be subject to a higher tax rate than that applied to other gaming and betting."

David Trunkfield, head of gaming at PricewaterhouseCooppers, added: "This change will be welcomed, though it falls short of the cries for duty to be slashed to 15 per cent."

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