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British bookies heading offshore again?

Yesterday's Racing Post had a two-page spread about how British bookmakers are handling the economic downturn, in particular, if they are looking to minimise tax and levy by heading abroad. Naturally they can't move their shops abroad, but other functions such as internet and sportsbook operations could head to Gibraltar or other territories with much lower tax burdens.

- BetFred recently transferred its internet sportsbook to Gibraltar, where it already based its casino operation.

- Victor Chandler has been in Gibraltar for a decade and hasn't changed.

- Stan James recently shut down a UK call centre and transferred operations to Gibraltar, where much of their business had operated before the abolition of betting duty.

- Betfair have had major operations in Malta for several years, and all exchange bets placed by non-UK and non-Aus/NZ residents are processed via those servers, as well as multiple bets and all poker, casino and gaming transactions.

- Hills and Corals are non-committal regarding transferring any of their non-shop operations abroad. Hills originally set up their internet business on the Isle of Man, then moved it to Antigua.

- Ladbrokes, a former resident of Gibraltar, are launching a 'Bet British' campaign in Scandinavia, encouraging punters and governments there that competition is good for the system.

For the smaller firms without a High St shop presence, then you can understand why they might want to move. 15% gross profits tax if they remain in Britain compared to as little as 1.5% tax abroad. But should firms based outside of Britain be able to get away with betting on British racing without paying the levy to maintain the industry? Australian racing authorities are introducing models to charge for the right to use the data, and so long as the asking price isn't ridiculous, the british government should make sure that the firms moving abroad have to pay their share. Racing in the UK is struggling enough at the bottom level without firms taking a free ride....

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