Scrap tax rise on bingo halls, MP urges

PUTTING up tax on bingo will mean poorer people subsidising the rich who visit casinos, Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer claimed today.

PUTTING up tax on bingo will mean poorer people subsidising the rich who visit casinos, Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer claimed today.

Government is to put up tax from 15 per cent to 22pc for bingo halls, but other forms of gambling, including betting, and on-line sites which are said to be more addictive, will be unchanged.

The bingo industry says the rise will cost it around �33 million a year and will put some clubs at risk of closure.

Mr Gummer, not a supporter of gambling, said: “Clearly, large numbers of people get great pleasure from forms of gambling that do minimum harm, and I would have thought that bingo was one of them.

“If I were trying to raise money to plug the enormous gap that the government has created in the national finances, I would be considering the forms of gambling that manifestly do cause significant harm.

“In casinos, for example, people with more money than sense waste it in a way that is probably socially undesirable. Would it not be much better to increase the tax on casinos and decrease the tax on bingo?”

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Mr Gummer told the House of Commons of the importance to Felixstowe of bingo.

“It has a large number of older people and bingo is an important part of the service that it provides for its residents and for people who come into the town. I want it to go on doing that,” he said.

“It employs people and provides others with something that they obviously enjoy and choose to enjoy.”

It was “obnoxious” that the poor would be subsidising the rich through the tax rise, he said.

Sarah McCarthy-Fry, parliamentary secretary at the Treasury, said the tax increase was part of a package of measures that includes making bingo participation fees exempt from VAT - making the total tax less than in 2003.

Should tax on all forms of gambling be increased? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk