Fears over new tax on arcades

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A BLACKPOOL arcade boss fears a proposed gaming tax will “strangle” the life out of the industry.

The flashing lights of fruit machines in gaming arcades are a traditional sight at seaside resorts right across the country.

But that could soon change as the coalition Government has proposed a new Machine Gaming duty which could see owners hit with a tax bill of up to £400,000.

Under the new rules, which were outlined by the Treasury in May, arcade owners would pay a flat annual percentage of takings instead of a tax for individual machines.

Trade body BACTA however has branded the move “disruptive, unwarranted and under-researched” and warned hundreds of business will close.

And local arcade bosses agree.

Frank Stefani, co-director of Foxhall Amusements in Foxhall Square said: “If this legislation is introduced, it will strangle the industry.

“We are struggling as it is, people have less money because of the recession and we are competing with huge jackpots in online gambling.

“People prefer to stay home where they can drink and smoke, hopefully we will have sold up before it is introduced.”

John Furay, manager of Funland on Blackpool Promenade agreed it was a concern.

He said: “I fear for some of the smaller businesses.

“I know many across the resort are struggling despite what Blackpool Council say about record visitor numbers.”

Derek Petrie, president of BACTA has called on Treasury Minister Justine Greening to secure a sustainable, fair solution for the industry.

He said: “At present we have a taxation system that works and is understood by arcade owners.

“The new system will introduce further complexity and a burden of compliance to an already strained industry.”

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden has pledged to work with Bacta to help local arcades. He said: “Anything which affects Blackpool businesses and affects employment is a great source of concern.”