year ago, the previous Labour government proposed that all overseas bookmakers – including the internet arms of betting giants such as William Hill and Ladbrokes that have moved offshore to avoid paying the Levy and taxes – should be licensed by the Gambling Commission.
That was seen as the first stage in answering long-standing concerns within racing that the increased volume of bets placed through offshore operators was seriously damaging the sport. The issue was open to consultation until June and the coalition government now plans to make a ruling. It is yet to make a determination on the Levy.
Under the licensing proposals all operators active in the British market would have to comply with the Gambling Act and be required to report suspicious betting activity to the commission and sport governing bodies. They will also have to comply with British licence requirements, including the protection of children, and demonstrate how they will contribute to the research, education and treatment of problem gambling in Britain.
The gambling industry has previously said it may accept licensing proposals but would oppose any attempt to make offshore operators pay the Levy.
It is believed the government will endorse the licensing proposals of the previous sports minister but doubt remains over how to enforce any subsequent attempt to force offshore operators to pay tax and the Levy on UK bets. It has been suggested that bookmakers offering bets in the UK could be forbidden from advertising in the country and their websites blocked if they were not licensed.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said it would not intervene to prevent the Tote, which is currently up for sale, from offering third party bookmakers the opportunity to bet into its markets via an offshore hub. "It is a business decision and a matter for the Tote," a spokeswoman said.