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
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk