Budget bingo tax win for MP who called Sunderland fans ‘scumbag hooligans’

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HE put his foot in it with Sunderland fans, but Tory MP Robert Halfon may have scored with bingo fans after today’s Budget.

The MP, who sparked furore (and later apologised) when he called Sunderland fans ‘scumbag hooligans’ on the eve of the Capital One Cup Final, has seen his bingo tax campaign pay off in the Budget.

Mr Halfon, who represents Harlow in Essex, had put forward a House of Commons motion calling for bingo tax to be lowered from 20 per cent to 15 per cent, in line with other forms of gambling.

Speaking before the Budget, he said: “Inexplicably bingo clubs are currently subject to a Gross Profit Tax of 20 per cent whereas other forms of gambling are only taxed at 15 per cent.

“This is despite bingo being a much more community-orientated event that provides comfort to millions of people up and down our country.”

Chancellor George Osborne went even further during today’s Budget, dropping it to 10 per cent.

The Bingo Association, which represents bingo halls and clubs, had also gathered more than 330,000 petition signatures during its Boost Bingo campaign.

The association said the announcement meant bingo clubs across England, Scotland and Wales could now fulfil their commitment to invest in new premises, modernisation and jobs.

Chief executive Miles Baron said: “This is the most fantastic news.

“Everyone is absolutely delighted.

“The decision to reduce duty by 10 per cent means bingo clubs will get an even bigger boost than we had hoped for.

“Bingo operators identified a programme of investment that would be freed up by a 5 per cent tax reduction.

“Now that we have secured a 10% reduction, operators will be relooking at their investment and modernisation plans, to stimulate the industry.

“Bingo fans across the country will be celebrating today.”

The Chancellor said the number of bingo halls had “plummeted by three-quarters over the last 30 years”.

The Bingo Association has blamed the higher tax rate for hall closures and the loss of almost 2,000 jobs.

The cut brings the tax on bingo below the 12 per cent imposed on National Lottery tickets, the 15 per cent for bookmakers and the rate applied to fixed-odds betting terminals, which the Chancellor raised to 25 per cent.