Sportech sees positive start to 2016 as HMRC loses tax dispute

Sportech HMRC
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Sports entertainment firm Sportech has reported an encouraging start to the year, with technology investments and new offices in Singapore bringing in a swathe of new business in the US and Asia.

The wagering giant, which turns over around $13bn in bets every year, said its Racing and Digital division had had an “encouraging” start to the year. “The investment that has been made over recent years in upgrading our technology has brought in new business, and the opening of our office in Singapore has started to deliver results in a region where we have previously had few customers,” it told investors.

Meanwhile, the company’s sports bar and betting venues have also performed well in the period up to 8 May 2016, with its flagship venue in Connecticut showing “significant” improvements across all areas of the business and internet betting on its site up 17 year-on-year.

At the start of May, the Court of Appeal ruled in Sportech’s favour in a tax dispute with Her Majesty’s Revenues and Customs (HMRC) that has been ongoing since 2009. Sportech initially claimed that it was owed a £40m (E52m) VAT rebate (plus interest) for the tax that it paid on its ‘Spot the Ball’ game between 1979 and 1996, arguing that it is a game of chance rather than a game of skill and is therefore exempt from the tax.

The company won the initial tribunal in 2012, but HMRC successfully appealed the decision, leading to a re-trial in 2014, which Sportech lost. Then, in May this year, the Court of Appeals ruled that Sportech was in fact owed £97m (E126.3m) in VAT and HMRC was not granted the right to appeal the decision.

Ian Penrose, chief executive of Sportech, said: “Having been through the various stages of the court process over the period of time, clearly we’re very pleased.”

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