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UK bookmakers face tax rise on betting machines

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, Mar 22 (Reuters) British bookmakers were dealt a blow in today's budget when the government imposed licence fees on all electronic fixed odds betting machines.

The fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) will be subject to Amusement Machine Licence Duty from August 1, 2006 at an annual rate of 1,965 pounds per machine on top of the current value added tax.

''All bookmakers with FOBTs in their shops are getting their worst-case scenarios,'' said leisure sector tax expert Karen Potts at Deloitte&Touche. ''They've deferred the pain until August 1, but it will be painful,'' she added.

Shares in bookmakers William Hill and Ladbrokes were broadly unchanged after the budget -- Ladbrokes up 0.1 per cent by 1536 GMT and William Hill down 0.5 per cent.

''The rate is slightly higher than expected, but it's also coming later than expected -- we had expected it from April 1,'' said a spokesman for Ladbrokes, which has about 6,800 FOBTs.

''We said at the prelims we expected 7-8 million pounds of extra costs from this, but because of the later date, that's more likely to be 3 million pounds,'' he added.

''In the full year of 2007 the cost will be 11 million pounds rather than the 10 million we expected.'' William Hill, which has around 7,700 FOBTs, said that as it had slightly more FOBTs than Ladbrokes the impact would be marginally higher.

The government also set an annual duty of 5,000 pounds on the new unlimited stake and prize machines that will be allowed in Britain's one proposed supercasino.

Operators of casinos, bingo halls and amusement arcades will have to pay annual duty of between 735 pounds and 2,500 pounds on other types of gaming machines.

REUTERS PG KN2136

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