Budget boost for bingo and beer - but not for baccy and betting terminals

Bingo boost

Bingo boost

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Deputy News Editor

THERE may have been a Budget boost for bingo and beer - but it proved bad news for baccy and betting terminals.

The Chancellor announced duty on bingo will be halved to ten per cent - prompting the Bingo Association to predict a wave of investment in clubs nationwide.

He also cut the price of a pint by one penny for the second year running, a move the industry says will protect 7,000 jobs. Duty on Scotch whisky - a product described by George Osborne as a "huge British success story" - along with other spirits and ordinary cider was also frozen.

Labour's alcohol duty escalator which sees prices rise at a rate of two per cent above inflation, was also scrapped.

All other alcoholic drinks, including wine and strong sparkling cider, will see duties rise at the rate of the Retail Prices Index, currently 2.8 per cent.

The Scotch Whisky Association said this meant a planned £4.8 per cent increase in duty will not now go ahead.

However, the news was not good for smokers. Tobacco duty is to rise two per cent above inflation and the tax escalator extended for the rest of the Parliament - something the Tobacco Retailers' Alliance said will only boost the trade of tobacco smugglers.

The news was much worse for those who play on fixed-odds betting terminals in High Street bookies - where gaming duty rose from 20 to 25 per cent.

This prompted shares in William Hill to fall seven per cent and Ladbrookes by 12 per cent. The measure is expected to take effect next March.

The Association of British Bookmakers described the new 25% rate on fixed-odds betting terminals as a ''knee jerk and ill-considered tax raid''.

Margaret Cooper, landlady of the Golden Lion Inn, Sedgefield, said: "We do welcome the cut in beer duty but I don't think one penny will make much difference."

Mark Dixon, landlord of the Quays pub in Tubwell Road, Darlington, said: "Tax is crucifying the pub trade and a 1p cut won't help at all.

"You only have to look at the hundreds of pubs that are closing down in both villages and town centres to see that more needs to be done to help."

Colin Shevills, director of Balance - the North-East alcohol agency, which campaigns to curb the sale of cheap booze - said it was extremely disappointing that the Chancellor had "listened to the global alcohol industry".

Meanwhile, Anthony Stout, who owns Stevens Newsagents in Newton Aycliffe, said the rise in tobacco duty would not deter smokers.

"Every year they put the prices up but people continue to smoke. It sometimes puts them off at first but they are usually back within a few months."

British Lung Foundation chief executive Dr Penny Woods said: ''By not heeding the recommendations of health experts to increase tobacco taxation by 5per cent above inflation, the Chancellor has missed a great opportunity to help put an end to this ridiculous situation in which a pack of cigarettes today costs less in real terms than it did in the 1960s."

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