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Levyo n bettingex change punters 'quiteu nnecessary'.

Byline: James Brewster

RAISING a levy on betting exchange customers would be unnecessary and a superfluous over-regulation of the online gambling industry, the judge in the exchange users levy case heard yesterday.

Barrister Lord Pannick QC is defending the Levy Board's decision that it has "no power" to charge exchange clients levy, which is raised on bookmakers' profits and devoted to the general good of racing, because they do not fall within the statutory definition of 'bookmaker'.

William Hill, who pay 10.75 per cent of their gross profits to the Levy Board on bets taken onshore, are adamant some customers who use Betfair and other exchanges on an almost industrial scale should have to pay their fair share.

The row has hit the High Court as Hills challenge the Levy Board decision made last summer. The company argues that highly organised operators are using sophisticated "dealer room" software and arbitrage techniques to make consistent, big profits from Betfair and other exchanges, in some cases placing more than 1,000 bets an hour.

However, Lord Pannick told Lord Justice Stanley Burnton yesterday that parliament had never intended punters to pay the levy and any attempt to make them do so would render the entire scheme so unwieldy as to be unworkable.

The government, he said, had stated it was "not persuaded" that exchange customers should be brought within the Levy Board's remit and that further intervention in the online gambling trade would be "quite unnecessary" and "superfluous over-regulation".

Holding out the prospect of a regulatory nightmare, Lord Pannick said that, if Hills' arguments are correct, "then a single betting transaction could have multiple leviable bookmakers, including the broker, the backer and the layer.

"All these multiple leviable bookmakers would need to be found and levied," continued the barrister, who said the task of enforcing such payments would be "unrealistically cumbersome".

David Anderson QC, for Betfair, backed up the Levy Board's arguments, saying "bookmaker" is "commonly understood" to mean someone who "provides betting facilities to punters", and pointed out that no levy scheme had ever been applied to punters themselves.

Lord Justice Stanley Burnton reserved his decision on the case until a later date.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jul 6, 2012
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