- Top betting companies have online meeting with Treasury officials
- Treasury officials warned of financial fallout if strict regulations are imposed
- Unlicensed gaming sites will flourish if harsh regulations are imposed
Some of the biggest betting companies in the UK have cautioned Treasury officials that the Treasury might lose some £3.2 billion of annual tax receipts from the gambling sector if tougher industry rules are introduced.
Representatives from Paddy Power, Ladbrokes and Bet365, met Treasury officials in a secret online meeting on 7 October 2021.
Overhaul Might Lead to Rise in Unlicensed iGaming
As per documents released under Britain’s freedom of information laws, executives from the said companies voiced their concerns against excessive regulations. An industry-commissioned report by PricewaterhouseCoopers warned that a drastic overhaul of gambling legislation might lead to an increase in unlicensed iGaming and gambling-related harm, reducing the economic contribution of Britain’s iGaming sector.
The report stated that the executives were eager to discuss the matter further with officials as the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) prepares the reform proposal. After noting the rising incidences of gambling harm, substantiated by the NHS Survey in 2018 and a 2021 study by Public Health England, the DCMS announced a wide-ranging review of British gambling laws.
The disclosure about the meeting spurred hostile reactions from pro-reform campaigners. Clean Up Gambling director Matt Zarb-Cousin termed the move as propaganda staged by the gambling industry to further tax avoidance. Campaigners have demanded an industry levy to finance research into problem gambling and to fund treatment services along with new stake limits, banning gambling ads in sports, prohibiting VIP programs, and stricter checks on gamblers and their spending. NHS Northern Gambling Service clinical lead Matt Gaskell has supported the demand for the levy.
Charles Ritchie of Gambling with Lives voiced his support for new reforms and enforcement of stricter punitive regimes and sanctions on the gambling industry upon failing to safeguard players from gambling harm. While the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) supported the government’s review proposal, it emphasized the need to preserve the enjoyment of gamblers who played safely, while protecting vulnerable sections.
Betting Firms Deny Avoiding Taxes
Amidst criticism about their overseas operations in countries like Malta to avoid taxes, betting firms have constantly emphasized that it is not the case. Spokespersons from Bet365 and Entain asserted that they were one of the topmost corporate taxpayers and were in contact with Treasury, Revenues and Customs officials. A Bet365 spokesperson deemed the ongoing review of the Gambling Act a normal process to engage with industry stakeholders.
A spokesperson from Flutter Entertainment asserted that the company paid £1.6 billion of global taxes. Further, the company affirmed its involvement with several stakeholders like the Treasury to ensure compliance with established procedures. Treasury officials have also confirmed meeting industry stakeholders regularly to discuss their opinions.