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Malta-Based Luvbet Is Staying Put Despite New UK No-Tax Regime

by Lorys Charalambous,, Cyprus

26 October 2001

In an interview this week with the Malta Business Weekly the founder of offshore betting firm Luvbet, Garry O'Halloran, denied suggestions that the recently introduced tax-free betting regime in the United Kingdom will have a negative impact on his business.

Indeed, said Mr O'Halloran, Luvbet has thrived since leaving Ireland for Malta last year and is in a stronger position than ever before. He explained: 'The margins on internet betting are far less than the high-street, and the above aspects are of the utmost importance. Tax-free betting primarily favours the punter, and the underlying tax structure will ensure that Malta will continue to attract international bookmakers, including many from the British Isles. As far as the regulatory regime is concerned, the regulations in Malta ensure that clients have far better protection than that afforded by the general standard currently prevailing elsewhere.'

'Yes, has secured a far stronger position since moving to Malta,' he added. 'The primary factor is the low tax rate for internet betting, which gives Malta-based companies a competitive advantage, certainly over Ireland and the UK. Also, the availability and cost of the services underlying an internet operation in Malta is cost-effective.'

Other online bookmakers also believe that the new no-tax regime in the UK will not be a threat to their business. Blue Square in particular believes that it could actually result in more business and savings. 'For a company that didn't go offshore, but has been offering tax-free betting and absorbing the deduction, it's a lot of money, a huge sum,” said Blue Square's David Belsham.

In an interview with the Racing Post, Mr Belsham added: 'There will be no radical change in people's betting patterns. Tax-free is clearly advantageous to the betting-shop business, but we have a different customer base. Having said that, there may be some element of substitution between phone betting and the internet, but it clearly won't come for some time. Tax-free betting is not the end of the internet, nor is it the rebirth of betting shops.'

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