The bingo industry has been dealt a blow by the Governments 2009 budget, even though it cam just 24 hours after the Bingo Association stated that the Government are sympathetic towards the industry.
The government has taken away VAT and brought in partial exemption for bingo clubs, however it has put a stop to the VAT reclaims which currently provide a huge relief to the tax burden of the bingo clubs.
An increase of nearly 50% has been levied on GPT which rises to 22% from 15%. Some in the industry are pointing to this as an attempt by the government to place an even heavier tax burden on a struggling industry.
Some bingo games, such as prize for cash games, were previously given VAT exempt status; under new proposals however the tax rate would rise from its current 15% to 22%. It has also been revealed that VAT is exempt for bingo rather than the Zero rating that many in the industry have been asking for. Ian Burke the chief executive for Rank (Mecca Bingo) commented recently in the Daily Telegraph " I don't understand what the UK land Bingo Industry has done to justify the government's vindictiveness."
For many years the Treasury have been claiming that bingo has been fairly taxed and that it should be paying VAT and bingo tax (GPT) along with other forms of gambling such as bookmakers. However many are now questioning why the bingo industry should be paying 22% while bookmakers continue to pay just 15%. Some are pointing out how bingo plays are larger role in the local community and has a history of having many less problem gamblers compared to other for games, so should not be penalized more.
The news of the tax hike has already hit some bingo operators. Shares in the bingo group Rank dropped by almost 14% after it stated that the increase in tax could result in a £6 million hit on its profits and as much as £9 million on an annual basis in the future. The profit projections for the group have now been down graded. For 2009 the group were predicating pretax profits of £40.3million which has now been downgraded to £34million while 2010 forecast has gone from £41million to £32.5million.
Online bingo seems to have escaped much of the tax increases placed on land based bingo thanks to the fact that the majority of online operators are actually based overseas. Those who are based in the UK will see an extra 7% of there income go into government coffers.