Budget 2014: Tax on bingo halls halved to 10%

A bingo hall Rank Group announced plans for three new clubs following news of the tax cut

Taxes on bingo halls are to be halved, from 20% to 10%, Chancellor George Osborne has announced.

The chancellor said the cut was prompted by the fact that the number of bingo halls had "plummeted by three quarters over the last 30 years".

Bingo hall operator, Rank Group, announced plans for three new clubs following the announcement.

But bookmakers called an increase in duty for fixed-odds betting machines to 25% an "ill-considered raid".

The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) said the increase in duty - from its current rate of 20% - had cast a shadow over 15,000 jobs and 3,000 betting shops.

Shares in Ladbrokes, Britain's second largest bookmaker, fell by more than 12% on the news, and market leader William Hill saw its shares fall more than 7%.

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'Bigger boost'

The changes to taxes on bingo received a much warmer welcome.

Campaigners had been calling for the levy to be reduced to 15% to bring it into line with other gambling activities.

The Bingo Association had gathered more than 330,000 petition signatures and the support of a more than 50 MPs for the proposal.

It had blamed the previous 20% tax rate for bingo hall closures and the loss of almost 2,000 jobs.

Gambling Commission figures show the number of people employed in the bingo sector fell from 17,822 in the 2010-11 financial year to 16,048 in 2012-13.

"Everyone is absolutely delighted," the association's chief executive, Miles Baron, said.

Betting machine Concerns have been raised over the addictiveness of fixed-odds betting machines

"The decision to reduce duty by 10% means bingo clubs will get an even bigger boost than we had hoped for."

Rank Group chief executive, Ian Burke, said the tax cut "created a basis for renewed investment and innovation".

As well as the potential for new clubs, his company said the tax cut would help preserve the future of a number of its existing 97 Mecca Bingo sites. Rank shares rose by almost 7%.

'Knee jerk' raid

The cut brings the tax on bingo below the 12% imposed on National Lottery tickets, and the 15% for bookmakers, along with the new rate for fixed-odds betting terminals.

Taxes on the latter were only introduced last year, at a rate of 20%, something the industry says has already cost bookmakers £50m.

"Increasing the rate to 25% so soon after it was first introduced makes a bad policy much worse," the ABB said in a statement.

"This could the cost the industry an extra £75m.

"Thirty percent of our shops, and many are small family run businesses, make less than £300 in profit a week. This knee jerk and ill-considered tax raid means their futures are now on the line."

The ABB also claims the tax increase will have no effect on the levels of problem gambling in the UK, which it says are already low at 0.5%.

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