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Online betting industry vows to fight duty rise in light of FOBT decision

Clive Hawkswood: "It's hardly fair that one sector pays for the alleged faults of another"
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Representatives of the online gambling industry said they would push back against plans to raise remote gaming duty to make up for lost tax receipts caused by the government's cut in FOBT stakes.

The government announced on Thursday it was cutting FOBT stakes to £2 from £100, with the change linked to an increase in the duty paid by online gaming operators.

That decision was criticised by Sky Bet chief executive Richard Flint, and his counterpart at the Remote Gambling Association, Clive Hawkswood, said on Friday: "We'll be pushing back on that. It's hardly fair that one sector pays for the alleged faults of another.

Sky Bet chief Richard Flint has criticised the FOBT decision

"Our main point is that the truth is there is no shortfall from FOBTs, they're just being greedy. The growth in online has already covered off any shortfall from FOBTs.

"In 2014, before place of consumption tax, there was almost no online gambling tax paid. Come next year it will probably be in excess of £800 million. It is pushing credibility to say they are replacing the FOBT shortfall. Nobody can say what exactly the shortfall will be either. If that is the justification let us see what the impact is."

Racing is also facing a shortfall in income of between £40m and £60m from lost media rights and levy should bookmaker predictions that the FOBT stake cut will cause thousands of betting shop closures prove correct.

However, the government has said it would consider extending the levy to bets placed in Britain on global racing to limit the damage.

That would represent a triple whammy for operators with both retail and online operations.

William Hill group communications director Ciaran O'Brien said: "It would be short-sighted to load further burdens on betting shops when there are likely to already be significant closures."

The levy was most recently reformed in April last year, when it was extended to overseas operators.

The Levy Board, which met this week, said that racing's central funding system had yielded more than £90m and could even reach around £95m in the year to March 31, more than originally expected.

Alan Delmonte: "We are advising caution"

Last year the Levy Board said early indications suggested income from the reformed levy could reach around £85m, having fallen to £49.8m in 2016-17. Levy yield last totalled more than £90m in 2008-09, when it reached £91.6m.

Levy Board chief executive Alan Delmonte said: "As this is the first year of the new arrangements and we do not have prior years' trends analysis for the actual figures of most online businesses, we are advising caution before assuming any figure is seen as a benchmark.

"There have been reports of particularly strong margins this year, but against that there were significantly more abandoned fixtures.

"Once we have a near-final out-turn in June, the board can begin to consider an appropriate level of reserves to hold and an expenditure budget for 2019."

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There is no shortfall from FOBTs, they are just being greedy. The growth in online has already covered off any shortfall from FOBTs
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