Racing: Gamblers caught up by the Net

It's not just for computer nerds. The world-wide-web offers tax- free betting for punters. By Greg Wood

THERE ARE probably more than a few members of the Jockey Club who regard computers as the work of the Devil - and the funny thing is, they might be right. As a new millennium approaches, even the Club itself now has a web site, which allows surfers from every corner of the planet to read the latest rulings by the Disciplinary Committee (there are, after all, some very strange people in cyberspace). But a possibility that should perhaps be exercising racing's administrators is that the same technology, could yet begin to undermine the very foundations of the industry.

That statement may one day turn out to have been a wild exaggeration, but then again, the one certain thing about modern technology is that no-one can predict precisely how, or even how quickly, it will change the world. Nowhere is this more true than on the Web, which already links tens of millions of people around the world and adds thousands more to its extended family every day.

Shopping on the Internet is still in its infancy, but the volume of business which takes place in cyberspace is also growing. Already, for example, British music lovers have started to discover that even when postage is taken into account, it can be cheaper to buy CDs online from America than in the local branch of HMV.

If you can shop on the Net, then you can also bet on the Net - indeed, since it involves nothing more than money transfers, betting is in theory easier than shopping. And, crucially, if you can bet with a web-site based outside Britain, then you can do so without paying tax.

Ever since betting shops were legalised in the early 1960s, the "bees wax" has been an inescapable fact of life for British punters. At present, it is charged at nine per cent, but within that figure is the bookies' contribution to the racing Levy, which is passed on to the punters. Betting without tax would be excellent news for backers, but potentially disastrous for racing's finances.

And it is already possible to bet tax-free on British racing, via a web- site run from Oxford by a firm called Interbet. The method involved is being scrutinised by Customs & Excise, but as Ray Bailey, a director of the firm, says, "we could be anywhere in the world doing the same thing, so if things don't go our way with Customs, that might be the way to go. If we were to move overseas, it would not be a problem, because we've got the customer base."

Interbet has 4,000 clients from all over the world, which is almost as many as the leading British spread-betting firm. "It's getting quite scary, actually," Bailey says. "It's exploding, things are snowballing mainly through word of mouth. If punters know that they can trust a site, they'll use it."

Trust, of course, is an important point. Cyberspace is a wild frontier where the desperate and gullible are able to bet in dozens of on-line casinos based in the West Indies. In time, though, more dependable companies will emerge, and for a generation of punters brought up with personal computers, betting on the Net could be not just cheaper, but also easier than going to the betting shop.

The racing industry tends to treat punters as just so many poor fools to be milked of their money. If just five per cent of them were tempted away by the chance to bet without tax it would leave an enormous hole in racing's finances.

It will not happen overnight, but you need only consider how much tax you pay each year - someone who bets pounds 10, three times a week pays almost pounds 150 annually - to realise how attractive tax-free betting on the Net could become. British bookmakers already operate tax-free offshoots in Gibraltar for high-rolling foreign clients, and a web-based operation beyond the reach of the Exchequer would be a logical step.

Interbet can be found at www.interbet.co.uk. A newer arrival in online betting is Bet Online, at www.betonline.co.uk, a joint venture between City Index and the Sporting Life website, where UK clients can bet on a variety of sports at a reduced tax rate of 7.5 per cent.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

Nap: Rymer's Rascal

(York 2.00)

NB: Monte Cavo

(York 5.00)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Systems and Network Support Analyst

£26000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a rapidly expandi...

Recruitment Genius: IT Systems Support Analyst

£20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a rapidly expandi...

Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

£20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker / Trainee Broker / Closer - OTE £250,000

£30000 - £250000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker/ Trainee FX, Stoc...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests