The British Government has made it clear it stands side by side in our dispute with Spain and that it upholds the right of Gibraltarians to self determine their own future. However the UK’s obligations should not end there. Although Gibraltar is punching above its weight on the economic front London should also be giving as much help and assistance it can to the economy of a community of just 30,000 people.
One of the success stories of recent years in Gibraltar’s economy has been the gambling industry. Now take a seat here because it has to be acknowledged that the man who established the on-line gaming companies in Gibraltar was the former Chief Minister Sir Peter Caruana for which he probably hasn’t been given enough credit.
It is clear that delicate discussions have been taking place between the UK and our Government on the new legislation the Treasury wants to introduce to claw back some of the tax income lost by major betting companies moving their operations here. London needs to be careful to balance its lust for winnings in tax against the damage it could do to our economy at a time when we are being attacked on all fronts by Spain.
This week Lord Gardiner of Kimble spoke in the House of Lords during the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Bill. In response to a question he stated: “The Government (HMG) have been working closely with the Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association to seek a remedy in the best interests of British consumers. Officials have met with the Chief Minister of Gibraltar and the GBGA, and there will be further meetings to discuss these matters. The Government have also hosted delegations from the Gibraltar Government and the GBGA in London. The Government very much look forward to continuing a positive and productive relationship with Gibraltar.” A lot of wise words but words that leave us none the wiser.
However Reuters does have some words of cheer. It reports that William Hill plans to maintain its online betting base in Gibraltar despite a tax clampdown that will cost it tens of millions of pounds. The company was one of many bookmakers which have set up internet operations allowing them to sign up British gamblers while benefiting from a benign local tax regime.
The UK is planning to impose a 15 percent duty on bookmakers' online winnings from British customers with effect from December 2014, a move that is expected to yield around 300 million pounds a year. Reuters quite rightly says the decision by William Hill will be welcomed Gibraltar's authorities, who have been concerned that bookmakers could move their online operations out of the territory.
Last Wednesday, Andy Lee, Managing Director of William Hill Online who is based in Gibraltar told Reuters: “We have over 400 people in Gibraltar; we run our global operations from there. Our staff are very happy there and there are reasons why we will remain there in order to be competitive in this market.”
William Hill Online is just one of our online gaming companies. If others spoke out now in as reassuring terms as Andy Lee it would be a major boost to confidence in Gibraltar in these troubled times.