William Hill Prepares for Tax Fight, Move Off Shore

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William Hill is understood to be ready to move its online sports and phone betting operations offshore within the next few weeks.

The betting giant already has a division based in Gibraltar for its online gaming operations and recently moved about 90 staff there and to its other offices in Malta, Israel, Bulgaria and the Philippines as it positions itself for the international market.

A company source said any plans to move to an offshore location would be determined by company strategy rather than tax reasons.

But it is no secret that William Hill -- along with other British bookmakers -- feels that having to pay 15 per cent betting tax in the UK rather than offshore rates, which can be as low as 1.5 per cent, puts it at a disadvantage against overseas rivals.

Chief executive Ralph Topping has been openly critical of the present tax regime, describing it as "utterly dopey."

If the company goes ahead and relocates its sports and phone business offshore, other bookmakers are likely to follow suit.

A spokesman for rival Ladbrokes said that while it was keen to remain a British company, if William Hill moved offshore it would have to respond.

At present, about ten per cent of Ladbrokes" revenue is generated offshore.

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