Changes confirmed as effective from 1 August 2017

In March 2017, the Government released a draft Finance Bill containing changes to the remote gaming duty (“RGD”) legislation to make “freeplays” dutiable for RGD purposes (ostensibly to align the RGD regime with the general betting duty (“GBD”) regime, which already treats free bets as dutiable for GBD purposes).

The Finance Bill was cut down after the general election was announced and the RGD changes (amongst others) were axed from the shorter version. Royal Assent was given to the shorter Finance Act in April 2017 but - for some time now - it has not been clear if and when the changes to the RGD legislation would be re-introduced.

The Government confirmed last week that certain parts of the legislation dropped from the pre-election Finance Bill will be introduced in a Finance (No.2) Bill 2017 at the first opportunity after Parliament returns following the summer recess on 5 September 2017. Whilst some legislation will be amended in the new Finance Bill, the RGD legislation (including the commencement date) is not expected to change from the version included in the original Finance Bill in March. On that basis, when the new Finance Bill receives Royal Assent – which we would expect to be in September or October 2017 - the new RGD legislation will apply with effect from the start of an operator’s first three month RGD accounting period commencing on or after 1 August 2017.

Unfortunately this means that, despite the interruptions and lack of certainty from the Government regarding this new legislation, operators now have very little time before the new rules will take effect.

HMRC releases updated draft guidance on RGD “freeplays” changes

HMRC has circulated several drafts of its guidance on the new RGD “freeplays” legislation in advance of its introduction, with the latest draft released this week.

Whilst much of the previously circulated guidance has been re-written in the latest draft, there are few substantial amendments. The new guidance does provide some helpful clarifications; however, it does not deal with all ambiguities in the legislation. Indeed, some of the examples provided in the guidance seem to increase the uncertainty as to how the legislation is intended to apply to specific gaming scenarios.