Betting and Gaming Council Issues a Stark Warning Against Potential New UK Gambling Taxes
The UK Betting and Gaming Council, the only industry body for gambling in the country, has spoken against the potential for increasing gambling taxes in the UK. The Council is under the impression that the UK Government may be seeing the betting and gaming industry as an easy way to raise money. It has anxiously anticipated today’s (15th March 2023) Spring Budget Announcement, expecting to see an increase in what bookmakers and betting sites would have to pay into the coffers to stay in operation. The Council has pointed out that, while it would fully support the Government’s economic plan, it is strongly opposed to jeopardising the UK betting and gaming industry with harsh or unnecessary taxes.
Now that the UK’s Spring Budget Announcement for 2023 is out, and no major changes have applied to betting and gambling, the next hazard to the current status quo will be the late White Paper on betting and gaming. All the Spring Budget says about Gaming is that “The Gross Gaming Yield bandings for gaming duty will be frozen from 1 April 2023.” However, the council is under the impression that betting sites and bookmakers are still not in the clear as recent tightening of rules and regulations on betting, gambling, and advertising across a number of European Countries is a trend that potentially will have influenced the UK White Paper, and may result in significant changes for the industry, which has the potential to make it more difficult for betting and gaming companies to survive in the current economic climate.
And so, the Betting and Gaming Council has expressed its support for the “Enterprise, Education, Employment, and Everywhere” economic plan of the UK government, however has cautioned against “measures which would threaten growth, jeopardise jobs or undermine the customer experience for millions of punters”. The Council and its supporters have always been outspoken about the benefits the gambling in the UK brings to the table and the number of positives associated with the long tradition of gaming and betting in the country. In February 2023, Labour MP John Spellar released a passionate essay on the importance of the Gambling Industry on jobs and the local economy of his constituency, the West Midlands, which is traditionally associated with headquarters of bookmakers and large betting sites such as bet365. According to Spellar, betting and gaming account for 110,000 jobs in the UK, and 20,000 of these are in his constituency. He warned the Government against doing anything that would jeopardise these jobs.
What Spellar said was also confirmed by the Betting and Gaming Council which cited a recent EY report showing that licenced UK betting sites and physical bookmakers in the country account for 110,000 jobs and £4.2bn in tax, as well as £7.1bn of gross added value to the economy. The betting and gaming industry spends £350m on developing and investing in UK horse-racing, and £40m on the English Football League. Additional funds are spent on other sports such as rugby, darts, and snooker. An example the Council gave is the Cheltenham Festival, which is one of the most important horse-racing events in the world, attended by 274,000 people and generating over £274m for the local economy. According to the council, the four days of the event will see over £1bn in bets on horse-racing. In addition to this, the event is an excellent way to pass the time, with fans being able to access over 20 hours of live coverage and commentary, attracting over a million viewers each day. This, and similar events could be jeopardised and harmed by any potential increase in gambling taxes, the Council warned.
Betting and Gaming Council CEO Michael Dugher warned that retail bookmakers are already struggling due to a number of economic factors such as the CoVID pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the cost of life crisis. He pointed out that the industry is keen to support the UK economy as much as it could, but that the way forward is a pro-business budget, and a White Paper that helps betting sites protect vulnerable bettors, not tax rises and sanctions on 99.8% of bettors who are not at risk of gambling harm. He warned against “intrusive, blanket low-level affordability checks” which could result in bettors turning to unlicensed, unregulated black market betting, which is extremely dangerous, does not protect its customers, and contributes nothing to the economy.
“Our industry includes world-leading British tech, as well as businesses supporting high street retail, plus those in the hospitality, tourism and leisure sectors. Ministers should be protecting investment and jobs at this challenging time. We want to see big changes that will further strengthen safer gambling, but new taxes and draconian regulations will put businesses at risk.”
The Council further pointed out the important future role of the Betting and Gaming industry in the UK, stating that investments from current and new betting sites and bookmakers will help generate 15,000 technology jobs in the next 5 years, and potentially 5,000 new apprenticeships in the next 2 years.
We, similar to most industry experts, will follow the issue with interest and will report any news in our blog, so please stay tuned in for more.