UK Government plans to tax casino freespins back on the table

  • UK duty on online casino freeplays reintroduce to 2017 Finance Bill
  • The duty had been removed from the bill ahead of UK General Election

A duty on casino freespins and related discounts, which was originally proposed last autumn is set to become law, according to a report by Gambling Insider.

The controversial measure would tax online casino freespins and associated discounts in the same way as other forms of sports betting.

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It was originally proposed in a HMRC policy paper in September last year, as way of bringing freespins and other promotions in line with the general betting duty regime, which treats offline freespins as taxable operator profits.

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The Remote Gaming Duty (RGD) was scheduled to be part of the 2017 Finance Act introduced to Parliament in March, but it was removed – along with several other pieces of legislation – by MPs who argued that the impending UK general election meant there would be insufficient time to debate the issues involved.

Lack of awareness

HMRC have announced that they believe the measure would raise an additional £45 million in its first year, which would rise to £110 million by 2020/21. Legal experts believe that the net effect of the measure will be to increase the tax burden on the gambling industry, although according to Gambling Insider, there is a lack of awareness about the introduction of this measure on the part of many casino operators.

The legislation does contain one concession to the gambling industry, as free bets will only be taxed the first time they are offered, which means re-bets – often a condition of free bet offers – will not be subject to the duty.

Given the importance of free bets in an increasingly competitive market where attracting and retaining new customers is vital, it is likely that most gambling companies will bear the burden of the new tax and continue to offer free bets and associated bonus and promotions.

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