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MPs reject offshore levy.

Byline: Bill Barber

MPS YESTERDAY voted against an amendment to the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Bill that sought to extend the levy to offshore operators.

The amendment - New clause 11 - was proposed by shadow minister for sport Clive Efford and was voted on as the bill, which seeks to regulate gambling on a point-of-consumption basis, reached its report stage.

Some estimates put the amount lost to the racing industry from offshore bookmaker operations based in places like Gibraltar not paying levy at PS20 million a year. However, the amendment was not unexpectedly voted down by 271 votes to 213, a majority of 58.

Earlier, sports minister Helen Grant, whose remit includes racing and betting, had reiterated her opposition to the amendment and also rejected a proposal to reserve the right to extend the levy at a later date.

She said: "We must look beyond extending a system that is agreed to be out of date, and there should be proper consultation before any measures are put in place."

Grant said she was resisting the amendment because she did not believe reform could come from "merely extending the existing levy scheme" and that it would need approval from the European Commission on state aid grounds.

Speaking of the recently signed levy deal, she added: "I'm also not prepared to act in a way that might jeopardise the stability provided by the recent voluntary agreement."

Grant concluded: "We have to do this properly. I'm not prepared to cut corners. We owe it to betting, we owe it to racing. We've waited 50 years, we now have a four-year opportunity and I'm determined to make the most of that time."

Following the report stage the bill had its third reading yesterday and, having been approved, has now left the Commons to have its first reading in the House of Lords.
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Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Nov 27, 2013
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