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High-tech gambling predicted to boom

Two million Brits will be gambling online by 2005, according to new research - and most of them will be doing it through digital TV

The popularity of gambling on the Internet and through digital TVs in the UK is set to boom over the next few years, according to analysts on Thursday.

Datamonitor predicts that by 2005 there will be 1.4 million Britons betting through their digital televisions, and a further 885,000 gambling online. It estimates that the total worldwide market will be worth up to £15bn annually.

This is a massive increase in popularity compared to today. In Britain currently only around 46,000 people bet through Internet-enabled TVs while just over 310,000 place bets online via their PCs.

While this prediction is good news for the UK's bookmakers, Gamblers' Anonymous said it is concerned. A spokesman said "many people's lives were falling apart because of gambling", and that any boost in online betting would make the situation worse.

The decision by Gordon Brown earlier this year to replace betting tax with a tax on bookmaker's profits led to suggestions that this country could become in Internet tax haven. Many Internet betting sites set up their operation in tax havens under British jurisdiction like Antigua, Gibraltar and Malta, meaning that customers avoid paying betting tax in this country -- currently nine percent of either a punter's stake or winnings.

Britain's four biggest bookmakers - Coral, Ladbroke's, William Hill and Stanley Leisure -- are all planning to shutdown offshore Net systems and bring them to the UK. By doing so, they will then be allowed to advertise their services in Britain.

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