Client: Victor Chandler International
PR Team: Consolidated Communications
Campaign: Abolition of betting duty in the Budget
Timescale: Two months
Budget: Undisclosed (within monthly retainer)
Victor Chandler International (VCI) is an offshore bookmaker based in
Gibraltar and accessed via the telephone and the internet. In May 1999,
chairman Victor Chandler sparked off a betting revolution by moving his
business from London to Gibraltar. This enabled punters to bet tax-free
and the company to establish itself as a global business.
Betting tax at the time stood at 6.75 per cent and UK bookmakers had
been hit by the Irish government's decision to reduce betting tax from
ten per cent to five per cent.
Following Chandler's move offshore, which began an exodus of UK
bookmakers, it became clear that the UK government would consider the
abolition of betting duty in the UK. Instead, a tax on gross profits
would be introduced, but on the condition that the major bookmakers
closed down their offshore operations (the 'big three' - Hills, Corals
and Ladbrokes - had all opened offshore operations following VCI's move
To ensure that VCI benefited from the betting duty announcement in the
Budget by getting across key messages that Chandler's move had been
instrumental in achieving a reform and that VCI had decided not to
return to the UK because of its international interest.
Strategy and Plan
Planning began early, with public affairs activity to discover exactly
what options the Government was considering to reform betting duty. By
keeping close to the debate, Consolidated predicted that the Government
would institute a gross profits tax and that the reform would be delayed
Consolidated set up a series of one-to-one briefings between Victor
Chandler and key media in the week before the Budget - these included
feature and new media writers and racing desks.
At the same time, a Budget Day statement was prepared that positioned
VCI away from the rest of the bookmaking pack. Rather than adopting the
broad industry stance of welcoming the reform, VCI attacked it as a
stealth tax and a hollow victory for punters.
This lone voice ensured headline-grabbing coverage, underpinned VCI's
pivotal role in the debate and confirmed that betting offshore is an
attractive option. The statement was also used to emphasise that VCI is
a global business not dependent solely on UK custom for success.
Measurement and Evaluation
As well as generous pre- and post-Budget features and news stories in
The Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Mirror, Financial
Times and Evening Standard, Chandler's quote appeared in six national
papers the day after the Budget, with name checks across the others.
The role of VCI in reforming the industry and forcing the Government
into a corner was recognised in all the articles.
The campaign communicated VCI's key messages: that Chandler had been
instrumental in achieving a reform and that the company had decided not
to return to the UK because of its international business interest.