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The British territory of Gibraltar has announced that it will be drastically inflating its taxes on all online gambling firms starting in January, a decision that could prove costly for several online poker sites. Online gambling companies are currently paying just a 1% tax in Gibraltar, with a ceiling of £425,000, but starting next month, they’ll be forced into the same 10% tax rate as other Gibraltar businesses pay.
Gibraltar has been an ideal location for many online gambling sites due to the low tax rate and has become something of an “online gambling capital” as a result. Poker rooms such as PartyPoker and 888poker currently hold their headquarters in the territory and the online bookmakers Ladbrokes and William Hill made the move to Gibraltar in 2009 – a decision that was expected to cost the Treasury of the United Kingdom about £12 million per year.
Gibraltar’s first minister, Peter Caruana, said the tax increase has been called for by Gibraltar government’s decision to conform to European law. "To comply with EU law, we must phase out the tax exempt company in 2010," Caruana said. "However, in order to sustain our successful economic model, we must retain a commitment to a very competitive corporate tax model."
PartyGaming, which owns and operates PartyPoker from Gibraltar, recently released details concerning its long-awaited merger with online gambling giant bwin. PartyGaming said in a statement that it would keep its headquarters in Gibraltar while bwin continues to operate in Austria. Whether the news of the tax increase changes those plans remains to be seen. "We’ve known about this for some time and we’ve factored it in," said PartyGaming spokesman John Shepherd. "The tax is still going to be very low."
According to a report in The Guardian, while online companies will now pay the standard 10% tax rate paid by other businesses, they will still not be subjected to any Value Added Tax (VAT), meaning that Gibraltar will remain an attractive setting for gambling companies. VAT is a consumption tax only on the "value added" to a product, material or service – similar to the state sales tax that most U.S. residents pay.
Many experts seem confident that the tax increase won’t cause companies like PartyGaming to flee to other locations. Victor Chandler, Chairman of independent bookmaker Victor Chandler International, expressed his assurance in an interview with regional newspaper El Pais: "Nobody will leave, although we’ll all complain about the tax going up." Chandler began his U.K.-based company in 1946 that does much of its business online, including sports betting, casino games, and poker.
The decision will likely add up to big things for Gibraltar in the near future. Under the current 1% tax rate, Gibraltar collected £10.5 million in revenue from online gambling taxes in 2009. So long as online gambling firms decide to stay put, the government can expect to see that number magnify in the coming years.
Online gambling has proven to be an extremely important source of revenue for Gibraltar and it is believed that 2,000 people currently work in the sector, which is around 12% of the island’s workforce. The industry has also helped to protect the local economy against neighboring Spain’s harsh economic conditions. Of Gibraltar’s 30,000 residents, only 600 (2%) are unemployed. The bordering Spanish city of La Línea de la Concepción is estimated to have 10,000 of its 65,000 inhabitants (15%) out of work. (Credit: Poker News Daily)
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