Sunday September 7,2014 : QUESTIONS ON WILLIAM HILL'S AUSSIE FINANCIAL DEALINGS
Some clever tax planning going on Downunder?
The Australian newspaper The Age raised questions over the weekend regarding manner in which online bookmaker William Hill has structured its Australian financial affairs.
The top British betting firm's Aussie interests are managed by high profile Sydney bookie and gambling personality Tom Waterhouse as local CEO after William Hill acquired Sportingbet, and Waterhouse's online wagering business last year (see previous InfoPowa reports).
The Age focuses on financial statements from William Hill Holdings Pty Ltd that show a loan of GBP 334 million (A$580 million) from a company in Gibraltar called Steeplechase. The loan carries a hefty 5.79 percent interest rate, which The Age says entails A$40 million of profits going offshore, tax free, each year.
The article is likely to further inflame concern in Aussie government and racing circles that international online operators like Will Hill are not making a reasonable contribution to Australian tax and levy requirements, and should be more closely regulated…preferably at national level.
The Age reports that a motion to achieve this introduced by National Party senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie, was recently carried at the party's conference, which called for online betting to be federally regulated and taxed, rather than at provincial level.
"Such a move would thwart the big corporate bookmakers – Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and William Hill – from "jurisdiction shopping" to find the best odds on tax and licensing," the newspaper suggests, adding:
"Most corporate bookies are licensed in the Northern Territory where, on the most recent figures available, the entire sector paid just $2.3 million tax on turnover of $5.7 billion and profit of $469 million."
It is unlikely that such national regulation will benefit the international online bookmaking companies that have become such a prominent feature in Australian sports betting in recent years.
McKenzie's move coincides with the forthcoming publication of a paper on gambling by the national minister for social services, Kevin Andrews, which is expected to recommend more national regulation; ironically since the Coalition government of Tony Abbot did away with the National Gaming Regulator after it came to power last year.
Asked for comment by The Age, a William Hill spokesman stonewalled, saying: "William Hill Australia does not discuss its trading policies. William Hill Australia complies with the regulatory requirements of the markets in which it operates."