In an op-ed article in the Yorkshire Post this (Friday) morning Sky Betting and Gaming CEO Richard Flint reacted to the UK government’s indication that it may seek higher taxes from online gambling firms to recoup tax losses brought about by the decision to chop FOBT maximum bets to GBP 2.
Flint points out that his Leeds-based company is domiciled and licensed in the UK and makes hefty tax and employment contributions to the Yorkshire economy
“Unlike other online operators we are not based in Gibraltar or Malta,” Flint notes, revealing that the company has created nearly 1,000 jobs in the last three years and has another 120 roles to fill. It has also launched schemes like the SBG CoLab programme – an incubator for tech businesses in the area, and this year it will open its graduate scheme for the fourth year running, helping build up the skills of local young people considering careers in technology.
“Any increase in Remote Gaming Duty is a tax on hi-tech Yorkshire jobs and will clearly have an impact on our plans to create new roles in the North of England in the years to come,” he warns, revealing that the company tax burden is already high.
“Last year we paid GBP 153 million in taxes and made GBP 146 million in profit. It is right that we did this – we are a UK-based business and proud of the contribution we make to Yorkshire and the wider UK economy. A contribution by the way, that was worth GBP 300 million in GVA to the regional economy,” Flint says.
“But it can’t be right to increase our tax burden even further to pay for a change in regulations that is unrelated to us. Especially when there are other, more equitable ways the government could raise any revenue it may need to cover this (FOBT) shortfall.”
Flint suggests other options the government should explore, notably:
* Widening the tax net to other technology companies (specifically Google and Facebook) who should be able like the gambling industry to identify where customers are based, and if they are in the UK, tax them accordingly;
* Closing the loophole that means companies based offshore don’t pay VAT on their marketing and other costs. Flint notes that this tax alone cost Sky Betting & Gaming around GBP 30 million last year, and extending it to other companies could address any shortfall the reduction in FOBT stakes might lead to.
Flint says that his company is committed to safer and responsible gambling, emphasising the importance of using data to ensure gamblers are protected.
“We already invest tens of millions of pounds in people, systems and the industry’s first ever safer gambling advertising campaign designed to reduce problem gambling in our customer base and we plan to increase this spend,” he revealed.
“To this end, Sky Betting & Gaming has already put forward a four point plan to industry. This includes harnessing technology so we can use customer data to understand player behaviour, and monitor for signs of harm.
“We look forward to working with the Government and industry going forward to continue to build a safer more responsible gambling industry fit for the 21st century. However, Ministers need to think through the implications of further tax increases online, or risk unintended consequences which would damage our local economy.”
Read more here