Just as you thought things might at last start to quieten down in the UK betting industry along comes Harriet Harman with a plan to extend the Horserace Betting Levy (HBL) to other sports and to take a fresh look at Don Foster MP proposal for bookmakers to give up their dormant accounts or sleepers as they are called in the betting shop.
The HBL raised to April 2014 £82m and by extending this levy to cover all sports more money would be raised for the benefit of grassroots sports, problem gamblers and any other scheme that might win votes for politicians in a forthcoming election.
While all this may be laudable with the electorate the scheme is fraught with problems.
So they are stuck with it. Being stuck means that the racing industries insatiable demand for subsidy will continue and the present Government collects a lot of support from the constituents in the racing industry.
So where will the money come from? We were told by George Osborne MP the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his budget speech that he intended to bring forth a racing right. This means that to bet on horseracing you would have to pay for the privilege either a fee for the right plus the levy, or the abolition of the levy where the racing right stands on its own.
The Government would not consider any option unless racing was going to receive more money.
To deliver a new racing right the Government will favour racing over all other sports and that may lead to a challenge from those sports in the European courts for illegal state aid. So by extending the levy to all sports you remove the challenge.
Don Foster’s proposal on dormant accounts and sleepers poses even more problems. Many of the sleepers in betting shops are not sleepers at all they are errors. Information fed into the computers incorrectly throwing out winners that are losers, bets placed after time and been made void without the client knowing, the list is endless.
I purchased an airline ticket last month and I could not make the flight. I called up to change the flight, which was possible but the cost to do so was more than buying another ticket. I lost my money on the first flight, and the airline probably re-sold the seat. There are plenty of anomalies like this in life for MP’s to get stuck into without continually banging the gambling industry.
We then come to a new a little talked about request by the Gambling Commission (GC) to request that gambling companies declare the country of origin where their revenue is derived should it exceed 3% of the total. Why would you want this information? If past performance is anything to go by when Government asks for information it is for a reason which is most probably to have market data so as to impose a restriction at a later date.
Generally if the Government is on fishing expeditions then no good will come of it.