PRE-BUDGET REPORT: Betting - Offshore bookies face UK advertising ban

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The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT is clamping down on offshore bookmaking in what Gordon Brown claimed was an attempt to protect Britain's betting and racing industries.

The Chancellor announced that he is to close a loophole in the law that allows offshore bookies to advertise to UK gamblers on Teletext and electronic media. The move follows the failure of the Government's legal attempt to stop Victor Chandler International advertising its Gibraltar-based bookmakers in the UK.

Betting groups responded by renewing their call for a cut in betting taxes, which raise pounds 1.7bn annually. A spokesman for Hilton, whose Ladbroke's International offshore operations started to accept UK business two weeks ago, said: "It is still unclear exactly what effective action the Government plans."

A spokesman for William Hill, which has an offshore operation in the Isle of Man not marketed at UK gamblers, said: "The ideal situation is to cut betting duty and allow us to compete with the offshore players." In May, Victor Chandler International, which is being acquired by Enic, the entertainment group, broke a long-standing voluntary code preventing UK bookies accepting offshore bets from UK gamblers. The Government is appealing against a High Court ruling in July that the company is operating legally by advertising on Teletext.