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UK – Betting and Gaming Council urge Chancellor to take bold steps to tackle online black-market

By - 12 March 2020

The Betting and Gaming Council’s Budget submission has called for reform of business rates, including changing the rules to allow more small businesses to take advantage of the small business retail relief.

The submission also called for reform of casino taxation rates and for help to tackle the online black market. BGC members – which include betting shops, online betting and gaming and casinos – directly employ more than 70,000 people across the UK and our industry contributes some £3.2bn each year in taxes.

The betting and gaming industry has undergone seismic change in the past year. Betting shops are adjusting to a reduction in the maximum stake on gaming machines. At the same time online gaming duty has increased from 15 per cent to 21 per cent of Gross Gaming Yield. Casinos and bookies are also suffering from a general decline in consumer footfall on the high street.

Over 1,500 betting shops have closed since the new maximum stake in April 2019, a rate of five a day. The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) are calling for support for the retail leisure industry including bookies and casinos through reform of business rates including changing the rules to allow more small businesses to take advantage of the small business retail relief.

Currently only a select number retail businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000 qualify for small business retail relief.

The BGC are also calling for help to tackle the online black market which is estimated to be worth £1.4 billion or 1.2 per cent of turnover. The black market is a clear threat to licensed operators and has resulted in a loss of revenue to the Exchequer. There is also a particular danger that children are accessing these websites where there are no strict ID and age verification measures deployed by U.K. licensed operators. New strict age verification procedures introduced in May 2019 for UK licensed operators require full verification of name, age and address before anyone can open an online account or place a bet.

BGC Chief Executive, Michael Dugher, said: “An antiquated business rates regime does nothing to help struggling high streets hit by a drop in footfall. Bookies and casinos help attract people to our town centres but once they’re gone there are few if any retailers to step in to take their place. We urge the Chancellor to take bold steps to help the high street with reform to business rates and casino taxation.

“We welcomed the Government’s commitment to an Online Harms Bill as an opportunity to clamp down on the black-market and the big platform search engines promoting these sites. Unlike rogue black-market operators, BGC members in the regulated sector adhere to the highest standards – including zero tolerance on under-18s betting. We ask the Chancellor to press for change that will help boost Exchequer revenues and stop unlicensed operators from preying on vulnerable consumers.”

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