When was off-course betting tax abolished?

As part of his Budget speech in March, 2001, then Chancellor of the Exchequor, Gordon Brown, announced that, from January 1, 2002, the betting levy would be abolished. Previously, the government had collected a betting duty of 6.75% from bookmakers, which was passed on to off-course punters as a 9% tax, payable on stake money or winnings. Instead, bookmakers would be taxed, at 15%, on their gross profits, allowing off-course punters to bet tax-free for the first time since 1968.

Beforehand, Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise had predicted betting duty would plummet as off-course punters sought to avoid paying tax by betting offshore or online. A spokesperson for bookmaker Victor Chandler, whose move offshore was believed to have spurred the Chancellor into action, described the proposed 15% tax on gross profits as ‘simply another stealth tax’.

Nevertheless, as announced by the National Audit Office in January, 2005, the move proved highly successful. The so-called ‘Big Three’ bookmakers, William Hill, Ladbrokes and Coral, all repatriated their offshore operations and the value of bets placed off-course increased by nearly 100%, from £27 billion to £53 billion, in the period since the law was changed.