|According to the Financial Times newspaper, the UK Government's Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is to support bingo companies campaigning for a reduction in tax to ensure the continued viability of the sector.|
Both land-based and virtual bingo groups such as Gala Coral and Rank have appealed to the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, for tax reductions to prevent the closure of bingo halls taking place caused by a recent economic slowdown and a reduction in the numbers of land players due to a smoking ban. According to the bingo industry, 100 clubs could be forced to close this year after 33 clubs shut in 2007.
The DCMS is now expected to push for tax breaks in its Budget submission as bingo operators say they face double taxation in the form of a gaming duty of 15 percent and value added tax (VAT) of 17.5 percent. The Treasury, however, believes the industry is losing customers and facing systemic problems that tax relief alone would not solve.
“The message we are giving the Chancellor and the Prime Minister is ‘if you give us the same tax treatment as other gambling industries, it will be an investment that will drive up admissions’,” said Neil Goulden, Chief Executive for Gala Coral.
“We continue to lobby and make the argument to Treasury,” said Ian Burke, Chief Executive for Rank.
Gala Bingo has responded by pushing its online bingo product and developing an online television offering in the hope of attracting a younger market less inclined to visit a club.
“We are seeing growth out of online bingo,” said Goulden.
“It is fairly new and only 20 per cent of our online players have ever visited a bingo club. We are probably going to market it more actively.”