alph Topping, the bookie’s chief executive, has made no secret of his frustration with the government’s attitude on gambling duty.
Internet betting companies based offshore pay as little as 1.5 % of their gross profits in tax, while those based in the UK, including the big three - William Hill, Ladbrokes and Coral - pay 15 %. They argue that this puts them at a competitive disadvantage and have been looking for ways to redress the balance.
If William Hill confirms the plan to relocate at its interim results on Tuesday, then its rivals are expected to follow suit. Ladbrokes could make a statement on the subject when it reports its own half-year figures two days later. It is estimated that if the big three all moved offshore, the Treasury would lose about us$ 83.6 million in duty.
However, they would all continue to pay duty in the UK on their large betting-shop estates.
William Hill is also facing a lawsuit from the Gibraltar-based online gaming company 32Red, which has launched a claim against it, alleging trademark infringement.
William Hill runs a service called 32Vegas, one of a number of websites it acquired in a deal last year. But 32Red claims the site is confusing for its customers and wants William Hill to close down the operation. It says it has suffered “loss and damage” as a result of the rival company and hopes to recover funds to compensate for this.
A spokesman for William Hill played down the dispute. He said: “This is the kind of claim that is made regularly between businesses. We have been advised that this is not an issue for us and are confident of our position. We will defend our legal rights.”
Analysts at Barclays Capital predict that their respective figures will show William Hill is outperforming Ladbrokes. They say the former will show net revenues up 6%, while the latter’s will be flat.
Ladbrokes may cut its dividend as it digs in to cope with a downturn. The board will meet this week ahead of its results and analysts believe they are likely to approve a reduction in the payout to investors.
Cecure, a company that operates poker games on mobile phones, has collapsed. Baker Tilly has been appointed administrator and Cavendish, the corporate-finance firm, is now looking for a buyer. Gaming groups including 888 Holdings are understood to have shown interest. It had been backed by Bessemer Venture Partners, an American investment firm, and World Poker Tour Enterprises.