CAMPAIGNS: Public Affairs - VCI stands up as reformer of UK betting

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 Gibraltar).



Objectives



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

until January.



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.



Results



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.



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