Tony Boulton, MERKUR UK’s Director of Public and Political Relations, has praised the 2023 Bacta Social Responsibility Exchange.
Tony Boulton said: “Bacta Chief Executive John White, National President John Bollom, Liz Speed who chairs bacta’s SR Committee and bacta Operations Manager Sarah Dhakshina-Murthy should be congratulated on delivering what was an outstanding and powerful event which succeeded on many different levels.
“As a company that places safer gambling at the heart of the business MERKUR UK had six of our senior venue team present at the Exchange all of whom confirmed that it was one of the most useful SR events that they had participated in.
“The Breakout sessions provided invaluable insights covering the techniques and technologies deployed by operators to minimise the record low percentage of players who experience problems.”
He added: “Whilst there can never be any room for complacency I believe that everyone involved in our sector can reflect on the progress that it has made and continues to make in order to ensure that low stake gambling entertainment is a mainstream leisure activity that’s enjoyed by millions of adults on high streets throughout the country.”
BGC Urges UK Chancellor to Drop the Proposed New Gambling Tax Simplification Measure
The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has urged the UK Chancellor against using a proposed new gambling tax simplification measure to further raise taxes which will threaten sports including horse racing.
In the Autumn Statement, the Government confirmed it will consult on new proposals to bring remote betting into a single tax, replacing the current three-tax structure.
General betting duty and pool betting duty are set at 15% of operator profits, but remote gaming duty, levied on games of chance such as online casino, is set at 21%.
Any hike in betting duty would likely lead to lower margins on racing, fewer offers for punters and less funding to sponsor and promote the sport.
The tax threat comes as revenues are already being stretched by so-called affordability checks on customers, plans to replace the current voluntary levy with a new statutory levy to fund Research, Education and Treatment to tackle gambling related harm and spiraling costs for betting operators to support horse racing.
Michael Dugher, Chief Executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, said: “Any further new tax rises could be a hammer blow for horse racing’s finances, which are already threatened thanks to measures proposed by the Government in the recent white paper.
“This is a sport which relies heavily on betting operators for its success and yet the Government appears determined to draft in measures which shrink the industry with huge ramifications for other sectors, like horse racing.
“What’s worse, the Treasury didn’t bother to consult or even inform DCMS, which is the department responsible for betting and racing. It seems they are high on tax but low on joined up government.
“There are genuine fears that any so-called simplification of the current tax structure will be nothing more than a Trojan Horse to further raise taxes on businesses.
“This has the potential to risk jobs and investment, and undermine the competitiveness of British horse racing on the global stage, placing its rich history and heritage in peril.
“We were promised an Autumn Statement that would deliver growth – the only thing growing is the list of worries for the betting and horse racing industries”.
The proposed new tax simplification plan comes soon after the Government’s White Paper, published in April, which included measures that will cost online operators in excess of £895m in Gross Gambling Yield.
And comes as bookmakers are preparing to make a record contribution to horse racing next year – with the bill for media rights forecast to increase by nearly £30m.
The Betting and Gaming Council’s five biggest members for horse race betting, Entain, Flutter, bet365, 888/William Hill and Betfred, expect to see a record cost increase to broadcast races.
In 2022, BGC members paid £270.1m for the rights to live stream races for customers and show them in bookmakers.
But that cost is forecast to rise to £285.3m this year, an increase of 5.6%, with members estimating a further increase to £315.2m in 2024, a further bump of 10.5%.
The forecast costs come after the BGC announced their members directly contributed £384m to British horse racing last year in levy, media rights and sponsorship deals.
In addition, bookmakers spent £125m on marketing to promote racing and betting through advertisements and partnerships.
Horse racing is the second biggest sport in the UK, second only to football, with more than five million people attending around 1400 fixtures annually across 59 racecourses.
However, its popularity is in decline. In 2007, 17% of the population participated in horse race betting in the previous year, but that fell to 10% in 2018.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has committed to reviewing the Horseracing Levy by next year.
The Horseracing Levy, which is administered by the Horserace Betting Levy Board, goes towards improving the sport, breeding and boosting veterinary care.
Betting operators are working closely with the British Horseracing Authority and racing stakeholders on much needed reforms to the fixture list and race programme which should increase commercial returns from the levy and media rights.
Betting shops support 42,000 jobs on the UK’s hard-pressed high streets, generating £800 million a year in tax to the Treasury and another £60m in business rates to local councils.
But this contribution is under threat, the combined impacts of recent regulatory reforms and Covid lockdowns have forced the closure of over 2000 shops with the loss of 10,000 jobs since 2019.
The wider regulated betting and gaming industry contributes £7.1bn to the economy, generates £4.2bn in tax and supports 110,000 jobs.
The BGC has repeatedly warned changes to the regulated betting and gaming sector by the Government must not risk forcing customer to the unsafe gambling black market online.
A study by PWC showed the number of customers using an unlicensed betting website has grown from 210,000 to 460,000 and billions is being staked.
Each month in Great Britain around 22.5m adults have a bet and the most recent NHS Health Survey for England estimated that 0.4% of the adult population are problem gamblers.
Mobile gaming needs more talent to power the UK’s tech revival, claims industry expert
Fatih Haltas, founder of mobile game developer Matchingham Games, believes the UK could lose its European tech crown if action isn’t taken by industry and government to attract more investment and talent to the mobile gaming sector.
Haltas set up Matchingham Games in the UK in 2020 to tap into its established tech ecosystem. Since then, the company has grown to over 120 staff members and achieved nearly 500 million installs, but Haltas says mobile gaming developers still struggle to attract the best talent and institutional investment, which is stunting growth opportunities in the sector.
Haltas said: “The UK has done a fantastic job in cultivating a dynamic gaming sector, and we have the infrastructure to truly become a world leader in mobile gaming. We already have the biggest gaming market in Europe, but we must attract more talent and investment from the global giants like the US, Japan, and South Korea.”
Currently, firms can apply for employee sponsorship licences, but these require upfront payment and often come with long administrative processes. Haltas believes removing these financial barriers and offering targeted, streamlined gaming visas would attract crucial investment and talent to drive growth in mobile gaming and the wider UK tech sector.
He continued: “There has been commendable government action for the gaming sector as a whole, like the UK Games Fund and Video Games Tax Relief. Unfortunately, these aren’t targeted for the specific talent challenges in mobile gaming. Young developers are still drawn to the more high-profile console studios and titles.
“The UK’s gaming industry has established foundations and proven growth potential. With some surgical support in talent acquisition, like easing visa requirements for tech graduates from overseas, the industry can be left alone to do what it does best – developing market-leading games. This would lead to a surge of investment into the sector.”
Haltas believes another option available is increasing the Business Asset Disposal Relief (previously Entrepreneurs’ Relief) lifetime allowance from £1 million to its previous ceiling of £10 million, and argues this would encourage companies to relocate to the UK to develop their games and stimulate M&A activity in the sector.
Haltas’ intervention comes in the wake of Drake Star’s latest Global Gaming Report, which shows the UK lagging behind an uptick of M&A activity in the industry (full report).
Q3 saw the biggest strategics, like Tencent and Playtika, consolidating, and Q4 has seen the Activision/Microsoft merger finally close. While many commentators have questioned what the Microsoft deal means for the industry, Haltas insists the lack of M&A activity in the UK highlights how institutional investors don’t take mobile gaming as seriously as other markets.
Haltas continued: “The UK mobile gaming sector often presents more lucrative commercial opportunities than the console and the PC sector, yet investors consider it a second-rate form of gaming. This mindset needs to change.”
In 2022, the global market revenue for mobile games was $91.8 billion dollars; for console games it was only $52.2 billion (statista). Mobile also makes up a larger percentage of total gamers; in the US it’s estimated that 48.3% of the total population are mobile gamers (Insider Intelligence).
The Drake Star Q3 report details 42 deals in the mobile gaming sector, with a value totalling $316 million. Total gaming deals across both console and mobile are concentrated in North America, with 11, and Asia, with 13.
The increase in gaming deal flow in these markets follows the introduction of talent incentives. India’s AVCG incentives provide cash for companies developing content in India, and further support for those employing a 15% Indian workforce (Confederation of Indian Industry). Turkey provides cashback incentives for UA expenditure (Turkish Ministry of Commerce) and the UAE’s AD Gaming initiative provides support for locally developed games (AD Gaming). In a European context, some EU countries offer corporate tax relief.
HSBC Innovation Banking’s ‘Data Commons’ initiative with Dealroom outlines the state of the UK tech industry (full report). Whilst the UK leads the European market, with its startups having raised $8.9 billion so far this year, its European competitors are catching up as investment lags behind the European average.
Haltas believes the UK is now at a disadvantage to other markets and while the government’s recent autumn statement included measures to support British business, he’s calling for sector-specific support targeted at high-growth industries.
Haltas continued: “The UK’s mobile gaming sector now risks lagging behind other markets and while the impetus is on the industry to drive growth, a little push from the government could have knock-on effects that go beyond gaming.
“Bringing in the best talent in one tech sector inevitably attracts the best developers and designers in other areas, and this will be a massive draw for investment into UK tech. The UK’s mobile gaming industry could become a lightning rod of investment and capital, revitalising the wider UK tech ecosystem.”
BGC Wants UK Chancellor to Rethink “Stealth Casino Tax”
The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has urged the Chancellor to rethink a stealth tax on land-based casinos.
Under measures announced by the Treasury, Gaming Duty Bands applied to U.K. casinos have been frozen again and will not rise with inflation, effectively creating a £5m annual tax increase across BGC land-based casino members.
There were hopes the freeze, first announced in March, would be abandoned, providing a much-needed boost to a sector which is struggling with rising wages and energy costs plus high inflation.
Currently casinos, a vital pillar of the tourism and hospitality sector, employ more than 10,000 people catering to over 16 million customer visits every year. They contribute £300m annually in taxes and an estimated £800m a year Gross Value Added to the economy. But some have struggled to rebound from the pandemic and the current tough economic headwinds, which has seen closures and job losses.
In 2005 there were 160 casinos in the UK – now there are 117. Four casinos have closed in recent months, including Genting owned Crockfords in Mayfair, the oldest casino in the country.
In 2019 casinos employed 13,600 people, which has dropped to less than 10,200 now, a 25% reduction.
Betting and Gaming Council CEO Michael Dugher said: “Freezing Gaming Duty Bands is a stealth tax which has the potential to slow recovery and weaken future growth.
“Removing it would have provided a welcome boost for the land-based casino sector at a crucial time.
“Instead, the decision to maintain the status quo represents a missed opportunity for companies ready and able to generate jobs and investment across the country.
“Right now casinos, which play such a vital role in the tourism and hospitality sector, are waiting for the modest but mission critical policy changes announced in the White Paper.
“It seems short sighted to maintain this stealth tax while failing to make changes that will allow casinos to hire and grow. The BGC urges a re-think so Gaming Duty Bands can be moved with inflation at the next opportunity.”
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