Budget 2014: Battering for bookies but a win for bingo halls

 

Bookies were battered but bingo halls and horse racing hit jackpots as the Chancellor shook up gambling duties.

Duty on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) will increase to 25 per cent from 20 per cent in March 2015, but bingo halls caught a break as their duty bill was halved to just 10 per cent.

Horse racing will also benefit from moves to apply the levy on bookmakers' racing profits that fund the industry to online gaming firms.

Read more: The Independent's Budget coverage in full

Bookmakers were furious at the increase in their taxes, with William Hill warning that the move would have cost it £16m had it been in effect last year.

FOBTs, machines that offer casino-style games, are controversial and have been dubbed "the crack cocaine of gambling" by critics. But bookies' lobbyists argued that they keep smaller, family-owned shops, afloat.

The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) said: "The impact of the new Machine Games Duty, which came into effect last year and cost the industry an extra £50m, already casts a shadow over 15,000 jobs and 3,000 betting shops across the country.

"Increasing the rate to 25 per cent as was announced today, so soon after it was first introduced, makes a bad policy much worse."

It said the "knee-jerk and ill-considered tax raid" would cost the industry £75m. The ABB argued that bookmaking is the only industry to pay more in tax (£1bn) than it makes in profits (£600m).

But bingo halls will be breathing a sigh of relief. Their duty had been one of the highest in the sector, and critics argued it penalised poorer and older punters.

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