A NORTH Yorkshire MP's bid to help horse racing by slapping a levy on offshore bookmakers failed yesterday (Friday, January 25) - when the government insisted it would breach EU rules.

Anne McIntosh, the Thirsk and Malton MP, brought forward her own Bill to regulate remote gambling, arguing it was "crucial for the future of horseracing in the UK".

The Conservative backbencher's Offshore Gambling Bill would require online betting sites used by UK punters to hold a Gambling Commission licence and contribute to the Horserace Betting Levy.

Ms McIntosh, whose constituency includes Thirsk racecourse, said: "At the moment, a number of large bookmakers are located overseas and, therefore, are not subject to tax and Levy contributions.

"A large number of people's livelihoods depend on the industry - particularly in my constituency."

In the Commons, she said her Bill would force bookmakers to set up in the UK, adding: "It is absolutely clear that an unintended consequence of the Gambling Act 2005 was the movement offshore of the major betting operators.

"All it took was for one to move offshore and the others followed. as it became less competitive for the others to remain in the UK."

But sports minister Hugh Robertson said he could not support Ms McIntosh's Bill, because the levy could breach European Union state aid rules.

He quoted legal advice from the Government's law officers, which read: "The European Commission would likely consider that the collection of levy contributions from overseas operators would substantially alter the levy, such that it was no longer compliant with state aid."

However, the minister said the government had put forward its own draft Bill for bringing offshore operators under the regulation of the Gambling Commission, which could be introduced in the next parliamentary session.