The 2010 General Election is a long way from over. It could even be 2011 before we see a final conclusion. Two possible scenarios arise at this very early stage, with not all of the seats being declared as I write. First, that Labour does a deal with the Lib Dems and some of the Nationalists, but Gordon’s scalp is the price. Second is Cameron tries to form a minority government with an informal arrangement with Clegg and they bumble along. Either way, a deal has to be done quickly to prevent the pound from being openly sold in joke shops. The trouble is that neither scenario can have much longevity due to the ideological differences of those involved and a new election is likely to be held in the autumn or spring. That’s of course if the country hasn’t already descended into anarchy at the shock of late night shoppers not being able to place their cross just before bed time.
What does this mean for the online gambling industry? My evens bet is that whatever happens politically, the DCMS consultation on the licensing of offshore operators who wish to advertise into the UK will be seized upon by whoever gets the keys to the door at No.11 Downing Street and turned into legislation that allows for taxation. The country is just too skint to pass up the opportunity of getting a slice of the gambling money that is presently leaking off shore. Alistair Darling has already run his slide rule over this one
The only thing that might save us is the Parliamentary timetable. Our new coalition/minority government will want to hold an emergency budget quite soon and any offshore tax would need primary legislation to happen. While this wouldn’t be opposed by any of the parties, it would still take up valuable time. Considering such a tax would generate a paltry amount of revenue compared to the international telephone number (plus extension) type size of debt we are talking about, whatever hue of new government we get, they may just be focussed on bigger things than to worry about online gambling.
My prediction for the medium term is no legislation that might benefit the industry (both online and off) just increased taxes and hard times ahead.
Steve Donoughue is a gambling consultant and lobbyist. www.gamblingconsultant.co.uk
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