Racing: Offshore bookies may be penalised

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The Independent Online
LADBROKES IS to expand its Gibraltar operations to offer tax-free phone betting to UK customers, but will be penalised for the move when levy negotiations commence.

The company will open a Gibraltar call centre to serve British gamblers by the end of the year. The move follows similar action by Victor Chandler International, William Hill and Coral. All have been tempted by the prospect of offering their punters betting without Britain's 9 per cent deductions.

However, Peter Bell, the British Horseracing Board communications director, said: "We are concerned about the impact on the Levy if telephone betting goes offshore, and any drop in income will be taken into account in negotiations on a new levy agreement. The betting industry should be paying more, not less, for the racing product which underpins a highly-profitable business, and we will be pressing our case strongly for a much higher contribution through the levy."

Rodney Brack, of the Levy Board, added: "The fact Ladbrokes are expanding their operation off-shore does not mean they will no longer need to use British racing. The loss of levy income on business which transfers from Britain to Gibraltar will need to be taken into account in levy negotiations."