Online gaming operators such as Ladbrokes and William Hill fled to Gibraltar last year in order to escape U.K. government gambling taxes and become more competitive with overseas operators. Now, it appears the relocation could be all for naught.
The U.K. government’s Department of Culture, Media, and Sport this week announced proposed reforms to the regulatory gambling structure that will likely force offshore operators currently licensed outside of the U.K. to apply for a license from the U.K. Gambling Commission if they want to provide services or advertise in the U.K. Until now, operators located in “white listed” offshore tax havens such as Gibraltar, the Isle of Man, and Malta were allowed to advertise in the U.K. while avoiding levies, but this situation will most definitely change with the enforcement of licenses from the Commission.
Other modifications include the enforcement of new regulations that would demand that all offshore operators have active systems through their applications that would share information about suspicious betting patterns with governing authorities in the U.K.
“Online gambling has changed significantly in recent years with many European countries taking new approaches to regulation,” said Gerry Sutcliffe, U.K. Sports Minister. “It would be wrong of us to stand still where many things are changing around us – especially where the protection of British consumers is at stake.”
Last year, Italy introduced gambling licenses for all online poker and bookmaking sites, setting business tax ranging from 2% to 5%. The Italian government has subsequently seen tax revenues rise across the industry.
Right2bet, a European consumer-led campaign behind the idea that it is a citizen’s right to choose, stated that it hopes the U.K. does not follow suit by blocking operators from the market or burden consumers with extra charges passed on from the high tax regime.
PokerStars Team Pro and The Guardian newspaper columnist Vicky Coren has also recently voiced her opposition to changing tax laws in U.K. card rooms, particularly the Victoria Casino in London. Coren hypothesized that the regular games at the casino will die due to “a stupid, greedy, ill-thought-out change to the tax rules.” The 2009 budget introduced a tax on poker games on top of the conventional hourly fee despite the fact that customers play against each other and not the house.
“This is the same government that wanted super-casinos and unlimited fruit-machine jackpots. So they want to encourage dangerous, mindless gambling but punish a game of skill? It’s idiotic,” Coren wrote. “All poker-lovers should resolve, next year, to write to their MPs and the chancellor about this punishing tax. It must be removed, for the survival of big casino poker rooms and the future of the live game in this country.”