Gambling firms start legal fund to fight government tax crackdown
10 biggest online betting operators in the UK locate all or part of the booming business in tax havens
Following stints with Reuters and the Press Association, Martin Hickman joined The Independent as a news editor in 2001. He became the Consumer Affairs Correspondent in September 2005 and has run the paper's trenchant campaigns on packaging, bank charges and factory-farmed chicken. He writes on subjects as diverse as food, finance, energy and fashion. With Tom Watson, he is author of a new book on the phone hacking scandal, Dial M for Murdoch - News Corporation and the Corruption of Britain.
Tuesday 05 February 2013
Gambling executives are planning to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds to keep open a tax loophole estimated to cost British taxpayers £250m a year.
A £500,000 fighting fund has been established by bookmakers and casinos in Gibraltar to fight the Coalition’s introduction of a 15 per cent duty on bets placed online in Britain.
Under the auspices of the Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association, they have warned the UK government that if it proceeds with the reform, they will mount a challenge under EU law.
The move is part of a tug of war over the £2 billion annual ‘house win’ from remote betting on horseracing, football and the casino games of roulette, poker, and blackjack.
The 10 biggest online betting operators in the UK locate all or part of the booming business in the tax havens of Gibraltar, the Isle of Man and Guernsey.
An Independent investigation suggests that since the offshoring intensified four years ago it has cost the UK taxpayer £1bn, far more than the highly publicised tax avoidance by the US firms Starbucks and Amazon.
From December 2014, the Coalition Government intends to change the levying of betting duty from where bets are processed to the ‘point of consumption’ - in other words, where they are laid.
Any company that tried to dodge the duty by refusing to apply for a licence from the Gambling Commission could see its website or advertising blocked in the UK.
There is intense opposition to the move in Gibraltar, a British overseas territory which has become an international gambling hub by levying duty of under 1 per cent.
Since 2009 William Hill, Ladbrokes and Betfair have all moved their online sports betting arms to the Rock, and gambling now employs 4,000 people on the two square mile territory, one in eight Gibraltarians, and contributes 15 per cent of government revenues.
Bookmakers -who pay UK corporation tax on their high street branches - have mounted a determined two-year campaign against a ‘point of consumption’ tax, including a behind-the-scenes lobbying operation. Representatives of William Hill and its smaller competitor Ladbrokes met the Tourism Minister John Penrose four times each in the year to July 2011 before the Government announced its plans in the House of Commons.
However the main focus of the industry’s campaign appears to have shifted to the law courts.
William Hill –estimated to save £37m a year in UK tax through offshoring - warned the Commons last week that the duty was “ill conceived” and “will lead to a strong and sustained legal challenge.” The company, Britain’s biggest bookmaker, told a cross-party committee of MPs that a ‘point of consumption’ tax should be no more than 5 per cent.
The Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association (GBGA), whose members include the Rock’s major betting firms, has raised a legal fighting fund of £500,000 to “institute judicial review proceedings to challenge these measures.”
Two QCs are thought to be preparing a legal challenge.
In a submission to the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, published at the end of last week, the GBGA said: "In the event that the Government determines to proceed with the proposed legislation and fiscal reforms, the GBGA will regrettably have little alternative but to institute judicial review proceedings to challenge these measures."
Britain’s plans breach European Union law because they would offer an unfair advantage to gambling companies physically located in the UK, the industry body said.
It added that the law would also have a "profound negative impact on the economy of Gibraltar" because it would force many operators to relocate to the UK instead.
Bookmakers have warned they need to base their online businesses overseas to avoid being undercut by foreign rivals and accuse the Treasury of failing to heed their warnings that they would leave the UK because of the rate of general betting duty.
William Hill declined to comment on the legal moves last night, but told the Independent last week: “The UK Government is likely to be in breach of fundamental EU principles of freedom of establishment and free movement of services leaving itself open to legal challenge.
“The current proposals do nothing to help stimulate or create a climate for investment and growth, in a sector which is a British success story and one that we should all be proud of.”
David Cameron stung by jellyfish: PM hurt after ignoring advice of locals while on holiday
South Korea ferry: Vice principal rescued from sinking ship found hanged
Oscar Pistorius trial: The case against Oscar Pistorius – and why the prosecution claims his story doesn't add up
Peaches Geldof funeral: Private ceremony to be held at same place as her mother Paula Yates on Easter Monday
Shropshire criminals ‘using unmanned drones and infrared cameras to find illegal cannabis farms’ – and then steal from the growers
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
Refugee facing deportation from Sweden saved by fellow passengers refusing to let plane leave
- 2 Overheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
- 3 Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'
- 4 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 5 Grace Dent on TV: Game of Thrones has jumped the shark
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...
£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...