Gambling Tax Laws in the UK – the Effects on Players

Gambling Tax Laws in the UK – the Effects on Players
Blog - January 8, 2020

Gambling Tax Laws in the UK and Their Effects on Gamers

Gambling in the United Kingdom has been a significant part of the country’s economy for decades. This jurisdiction is home to some of the most prominent gambling companies and bookmarkers that have gone on to make global names for themselves. The success of the industry is pushed by the tight grip the government has on its operations with laws to benefit both players and the companies involved. This review dives deep into the origins of the UK gambling niche, the regulations that are active today, along with where players and companies stand in terms of taxation.

UK Gambling History

Gambling has been a part of the United Kingdom even long before the Romans invaded the nation. However, the types of games that people wagered on were divided according to the economic class they fell in. The upper class used to stake in horseraces and cockfights while the poor indulged in dice games, which were mostly played on the streets. The first-ever UK horse races were recorded in 1539 and took place in Chester.

Prohibition: 1500s

Even in the olden days, the government tried to put reigns on this activity and make it a regulated business. The practice was legal under the English common law until 1541 when King Henry VIII passed the Unlawful Games Act. He made a move to ban all forms of gambling since he assumed the activity interfered with soldiers duties. Gambling continued as an underground industry, but with the difference that one could not report delays in credit payments in courts.

Legalisation: 1500s to 1800s

When Henry’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth I came into power, she put a stamp on the first lottery in 1569, which brought legal gambling back into play. The money collected was intended to repair the harbours, but only 10% of the 400,000 lots were sold. The UK elite looked down upon the venture and spoke openly about their concerns on the immoral nature of the gambling practice. Even so, the lottery was advertised across the country with tickets being sold between 1566 and 1569. The pooled prize of five thousand pounds was finally won in 1569, and the winners were also granted immunity from small crimes.

King James I continued with the gambling practices of his predecessors and even allowed companies to run private lotteries. The king let the Virgin Company use the platform to expand its settlement from London to America. King Charles I also let lotteries run to give funds for London’s water supply. The English State Lottery was also established, and it ran between 1694 and 1826.

Prohibition: 1800s

Lottery gambling ran for a substantial 250 years until the government declared it illegal and shut down the English State Lottery in 1826. The change in law was mainly pushed by the opposition, and it was backed by a lot of anti-gambling sentiments among the public. During the time a lot of high-level gambling fraud and corrupt lotteries were running, which gave the industry a bad name.

Even though commercialised gambling was banned, on-course betting was still alive and thriving. Even more, it was legal and was conducted on horse races. However, only the wealthy could afford to grace the events, which means that most other gambling practices went back underground. Since public gambling was criminalised, a lot of bookmarkers hired runners who could outrun the police in case they got caught. The UK government soon realised that the ban on the industry only increased the criminal activity they had to deal with.

The gambling niche was a revered success among the wealthy in the UK, and it sparked a lot of resistance across the country. In 1844, the Select Committee on Gambling was born, and it ran in the House of Lords. The body was tasked with creating a way to regulate the gambling industry and limit its practice across all classes. This resulted in the Gaming Act of 1845 and Betting Act of 1853, which saw an end to any betting among the upper class.

Legalisation: XX Century

Even with more harsh laws coming into play, illegal gambling was flourishing in the United Kingdom. The early 1900s were the real turning point for the gaming business when the Royal Commissions on Lotteries and Betting were established. These two institutions brought back gambling but in a controlled manner to reduce crime rates. Their first gambling legislation was passed in 1960, which allowed betting shops to run only with a license from the government, which left them open to supervision by the same. Gambling has been legal in the United Kingdom ever since with the laws being updated regularly to keep up with the evolving mould of the niche.

Gambling Tax Laws

Government Revenue Sourced from Gambling

The United Kingdom is a haven for gamblers since they get to keep everything that they gamble. This tax-free policy applies to all punters in England, North Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. This sets the UK gambling business far ahead of those of other nations like the United States, Macau, and France that apply levies of between 1 and 25%. However, when gambling in foreign states, even with UK betting companies, one has to deal with the respective nation’s taxation laws.

The United Kingdom’s ease on gamblers is supported by the sizeable shares it claims from gambling companies. Casinos and other betting firms are expected to pay levies of 15% of all the profits they generate. Between 2017 and 2018, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs collected close to three billion pounds in duty from the gambling industry. Even though players do not contribute to this astronomical amount directly, casinos ensure it by adding a house edge in games that make the chances of losing higher than those of winning.

The gambling taxation laws apply to companies operating outside the United Kingdom as well. In such cases, the firms are required to first register with the levy board through which they will pay one or more of these three taxes – Remote Gaming Duty, General Betting Duty, and Pool Betting Duty.

Modern Gambling in the UK

The gambling industry has evolved immensely over the years despite whether the subject matter is the quality of games, regulations, or technology used in gameplay delivery. The current gaming age is shaped by the internet, which came into play in 1994. The government has since applied somewhat loose regulations, and they are held up by the UK Gambling Commission. Gambling dens run with more freedom today as long as they use measures that combat problem gambling and have a license from the UKGC.

The Future of the Industry

The rapid rate with which the gambling industry is growing in the United Kingdom comes with a growing percentage of problem gambling in its tow. In 2018, it was estimated that 14% of children aged between eleven and sixteen partake in some form of betting. In a bid to curb this issue, the UKGC is passing new regulations to ensure casinos apply strict ID and verification measures for gamblers making deposits and withdrawals. The standards also come in handy to sift out money laundering criminals.

FAQ: Taxation Laws

A lot of questions are posed by gamblers regarding how gambling tax UK laws are applied in the world of casinos. This section points out some of the most commonly asked queries along with answers that shed some light on the issue.

Do Taxation Policies Applied to the Winnings Collected in UK Gambling Establishments?

The United Kingdom government does not apply any tax laws on the winnings collected by punters in casinos. Therefore, the payouts received after striking luck can be withdrawn and spent without any worries of paying a percentage of the dues. Even so, one does pay tax indirectly, but through the gambling den. The fees are taken in the form of Return to Player percentages that are in favour of the house. With casinos having a higher chance of winning than losing, they can handle any fees required by the Treasury.

Do Professional Punters Have to Pay Tax in the United Kingdom?

Even though some gamers participate in the activity professionally rather than as a pastime activity, they are still considered gamblers by the law. Even though casinos are their source of income, the money they get is not deemed taxable. This also means that they cannot file for tax refunds as people in everyday jobs would. Therefore, professional players just have to count their losses and move on.

Do Gambling Companies in the United Kingdom Have to Pay Taxes?

Unlike in the case of players, UK gambling businesses have to pay taxes. All the profits collected are charged a levy of 15%. This figure changes in the case of lotteries, and firms give 12% of all the bets placed by punters. The taxation laws extend to firms that operate outside of the United Kingdom but still offer their services to gamblers in the region. Before being accepted as a legal entity in the jurisdiction, companies have to register with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, and through the platform, they can pay tax. Such companies are expected to pay Remote Gaming Duty, General Betting Duty, or Pool Betting Duty. Depending on the services being offered, the entity pays one or more of these levies.

Does the UK Government Tax Spread Betting?

Spread betting is carried with similar regard as regular betting in the UK, which means no taxes are applied. The tax exemption is supported by the fact that participants do not claim ownership of the item at the centre of the wager. All one has to do is speculate on the rise and fall of the commodity’s price. The bettor benefits from the spread between the bid price and ask price. Therefore, they avoid the commissions that would apply in most other security trades.

Nonetheless, if spread betting stands as the only source of income, taxation does apply. The fees that are demanded can be gone over with the help of an expert in the tax field, which will give one a clear idea of how much they are expected to pay.

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