UK Gambling Operators Go On Political Charm Offensive in 2016

MPs like Alex Salmond receive gambling hospitality.

UK gambling operators turn on the charm in 2016 by giving MPs like Alex Salmond (pictured) £20,000 in gambling related gifts. (Image: dailyrecord.co.uk)

UK gambling operators did their best to charm influential MPs amid a review of the betting industry according to recent reports.

Looking back on a year when the government paid closer attention to the betting industry, the expense sheets of certain politicians showed that there may have been a charm offensive in place.

With everything from gambling tax to Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) under scrutiny, operators offered up £20,000 of hospitality to various MPs.

Taking the form of everything from tickets to major horse racing events, including the Grand National, to VIP treatment at sports stadiums, this hospitality was received by some notable figures.

Were Operators Buying Favours?

In addition to Conservative MPs Laurence Robertson and Philip Davies accepting £5,166 and £4,720 respectively in benefits, former SNP leader Alex Salmond received a £1,000 Racecourse Association permit.

Although there has been no suggestion that any of the MPs were unduly influenced by the hospitality, the Campaign for Fairer Gambling believes it creates a conflict of interest.

“Those MPs who accept the bookies’ free entertainment must surely realise what this is really about and why all of a sudden they are splashing the cash on them. They are trying to garner what support they can for their £100-a-spin machines and stave off what looks like an impending clampdown by the government,” said a spokesperson for the organisation.

While operators will contest that that such hospitality is a common practice among figures of influence, anti-gambling outfits will likely raise the issue in future debates about the industry.

Will Hill Waves Goodbye to Czech Republic

In other UK gambling news this week, British bookmaker William Hill has announced that it will be leaving the Czech Republic. Following the introduction of new legislation, William Hill has informed its Czech customers that they should withdraw their bankrolls at the earliest opportunity.

According to rules that came into effect on January 1, online operators wishing to hold a licence in the Czech Republic must have a base within an EU or European Economic Area country. Additionally, the country must also have at least €2 million (£ 1.7 million) in equity.

However, by far the most imposing piece of regulation operators must now abide by is the new tax rate. The levy on gross gaming revenue for sports betting and lotteries will now be 23 percent, while RNG casino games will incur a 35 percent tax.

These new rates are on top of an existing corporate tax rate of 19 percent, which means operators will be paying a high price to remain active within the Czech Republic. With the costs outweighing any potential benefits, William Hill has decided to pull out of the country.

Despite Czech politicians hoping the new regulations would improve the country’s iGaming economy, it seems as though it may have the opposite effect given that it’s now lost one of Europe’s largest operators.

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