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UK Customs To Move On Offshore Betting Sites

by Caroline Maxwell,, London

22 October 2001

Following the abolition of betting tax in the UK earlier this month, the Customs and Excise department has announced that it is planning to launch a crackdown on offshore betting sites which continue to advertise to UK punters despite regulatory restrictions.

The move to abolish tax on winnings and replace it with a 15% gross profits tax was welcomed by bookies when it was announced by Chancellor Gordon Brown in his 2001 budget. Organisations which had previously relocated offshore to avoid the punitive taxation system began to slowly filter back to the UK. When the measure was actually introduced, on the 6th of October, a number of British bookmakers, such as Ladbrokes and William Hill, reported substantial increases in turnover.

However, as a condition of returning to the United Kingdom, the big name bookies demanded protection from the government against the threat from offshore operators - a problem which the UK Customs and Excise department is just now getting to grips with.

The government department recently announced that its main focus would be on preventing offshore gambling sites from advertising to UK internet users, a task which will undoubtedly prove tricky, but is by no means impossible. Proposed measures include the introduction of new government legislation to force UK ISPs to stop hosting advertisements from offshore sites. However, a Customs and Excise spokesman said last week that no decisions as to how to proceed had been made as yet, and the department was just monitoring the situation at the moment in order to ascertain which offshore sites were the main offenders.

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