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Fresh demands were made today for the British government to slash betting tax to allow Britain`s betting industry to compete on level terms with off-shore operators.

Levy Board chairman Robert Hughes insisted there was a critical need for a reduction in duty 'sufficiently large enough to enable bookmakers to do away with the need for deductions'.

He made his remarks as he opened the 2000 Betting Shop Show at the National Motorcycle Museum near Birmingham.

Hughes said: 'Whether the Chancellor fundamentally changes the tax base or simply cuts the current betting duty rate, the industry is united in believing that a cut in the overall tax burden on the punter is required in order to ensure that the industry becomes competitive with the off-shore betting companies.

'The Treasury and Customs & Excise are alive to the competitive pressures on the industry arising from globalisation. It is imperative that this is reflected in the Chancellor`s response in the next Budget.

'Such a response would enable offshore companies to return to this country. They would then be able to exploit the potential of e-commerce, as recommended by the Government, in building a British-based international betting market.

'I am hopeful that the deliberations of the Government`s Gambling Review Body, chaired by the eminent economist, Sir Alan Budd, will, in due course, lead to a modernised regulatory environment for betting shops.

Hughes called for a pragmatic approach in the current Levy negotiations.

'Racing needs to remember that, following last year`s settlement, many in the industry acknowledged that the Levy process was incapable of delivering a 'quantum leap' in finance. Indeed, that was their main justification in calling for its abolition,' he said.