Tax change boost for Stanley Leisure

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Stanley Leisure, the bookmaking and casino group, gave an early indication yesterday that the betting industry had enjoyed soaring sales following the Government's abolition of betting tax last October.

The group said turnover in its betting division had risen by 37 per cent in the three months from 6 October to 6 January. Leonard Steinberg, the chairman, said punters had recycled 50 per cent of the tax they had saved following the introduction of a gross profits tax (GPT) of 15 per cent.

Mr Steinberg said he remained confident that GPT would continue to grow sales, while admitting that margins had been hammered as a result. However, the rise in turnover was helped by a cycle of good results for the punters, which had encouraged them to recycle more of their winnings.

His comments came as Stanley revealed it had been forced to take a £2m hit against bad debts at one of its three London casinos. Bob Wiper, the chief executive, said Stanley was "absolutely likely" to get the stake back. He added that more than one player was involved but refused to name them.

The provision affected pre-tax profits before goodwill for the six months to 26 October, which nudged up to £15.1m from £15m. Turnover for the group increased by 9 per cent from £332m to £363m. The strongest performance came from Stanley's 30-strong string of provincial casinos where sales rose by 13 per cent from £62.3m to £70.2m.