Stan James owners Stephen, Anne and Peter Fisher are facing a tribunal after the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) decided to investigate their year 2000 move to Gibraltar. ThisisMoney reports the firm is being looked at by the HMRC as they claim the move was just made to avoid UK gambling industry tax and duties. Court files reveal the taxman wants to tax the firm’s tele-betting business as if it’s the three shareholders’ personal income – a higher rate of income tax than the firm would have had to pay in the first place. Companies are permitted to move to The Rock if they can show genuine commercial reasons for the move and if they can’t, a special tax charge. CalvinAyre.com contacted Stan James for comment but hadn’t heard anything back when the article went to press.
It’s not clear whether this will have any effect on other firms that relocated to Gibraltar or if it was simply Stan James taking their eye off the ball. If the former is true then it could be a sign that HMRC is starting to crack down before new gambling industry rules come into force in 2014.
On the European scene, the European Betting and Gaming Association (EGBA) has got on its soapbox ahead a meeting of European member states later this week. Secretary general Sigrid Ligne professed her worry that consumers will continue to turn to “unlicensed and unregulated operators” if no legal framework is decided upon. The meeting, called on 27 June by the European Parliament, is to be chaired by internal market commissioner Michael Barnier and will set out expectations ahead of the European Commission’s Communication and Action Plan on online gaming in the EU. Regarding the market as a whole, the end goal of the EGBA is for a “single licence or passport” for online gaming in the EU. They’re realistic enough to know this isn’t possible right now and have other suggestions as to how a more harmonized situation can be reached.
“A practical start should be made now by the Commission proposing a harmonisation of targeted licensing requirements, common technical standards and reporting tools, and common consumer protection standards based on the workshop agreement published in 2011 by the European standardisation body CEN. These are not pie-in-the-sky expectations,” Ligne said.
She added: “No economic sector can survive in a climate of sustained legal uncertainty. Certain national regimes are clearly at odds with the treaty-based “red lines” which seek to combat protectionist bias, and the situation is only getting worse. Some have even gone as far as to introduce criminal sanctions against EU operators and consumers on the back of legislation which manifestly violates EU law – yet the Commission does nothing. Without Commission action now, certain member states will continue to consider that they have “carte blanche” to do as they please.”
It’s clear the problems that the European balkanized approach brings are finally starting to bite and the EU is looking to quickly change the situation. They could already be too late though.