|British land bingo operators have little to celebrate following the release of Chancellor Alistair Darling’s Budget last week, which maintains a controversial double taxation regime on an industry already suffering under a public smoking ban.|
Operators have complained for some time that they are the only gambling industry to be hit by double taxation in the form of a gaming duty of 15 percent and a value-added tax of 17.5 percent. They argue that bingo is one of the softest forms of gambling and is often played for low stakes by older and poorer individuals.
The Bingo Association had warned that hundreds of clubs would face closure if the current tax policy were continued as bingo had also been hit hard by the impact of a smoking ban and the loss of lucrative slot machines due to changes in industry regulations.
“This is a slap in the face for bingo players across the country,” Paul Talboys, Chief Executive of the Bingo Association told The Times newspaper.
“There is no reason why they should continue to be penalised by double taxation when other gambling products pay only a single tax. In the last 14 months alone some 43 clubs have closed. This lack of action will now ensure further club closures with attendant loss of jobs and decrease in Treasury receipts.”
Rank, the operators of Mecca Bingo, and Gala Coral have led a concerted effort to bring about change with Ian Burke, Chief Executive for Rank, stating that the Treasury has actually increased the overall tax burden on bingo clubs by imposing an inflationary rise on the amusement machine licence duty. He stated that Mecca, which has 102 clubs, paid about $26 million in value-added tax alone last year and is forecasting a bill of about $20 million for 2008.