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Brothers lose slot machine gamble

Press Release   •   Feb 04, 2013 11:05 GMT

Two brothers who ran amusement arcades in Sussex and Kent without paying £170,000 in gaming duty have been sentenced to suspended prison terms. The brothers’ gamble failed when officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) seized 86 illegally operated gaming machines from their premises last year.

In June 2012 HMRC officers visited four amusement arcades in Bognor Regis, Brighton, Crawley and Tunbridge Wells, seizing the machines and more than £19,000 in cash. Operators George Gess, 39, and his brother, Joseph, 45, were arrested.

David Margree, Assistant Director, HMRC, said:

“Gaming machine operators are legally required to pay gaming duty. If they do not, we make concerted efforts to collect that duty. As a last resort we will always step in and seize machines so that they are not run at an advantage over honest operators.”

Appearing at Lewes Crown Court on Friday, George Gess was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, and ordered to complete 180 hours of community service. Joseph Gess was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, and ordered to complete 100 hours community service.

Notes for editors

1. Defendants’ details: George Henry Charles Gess, DOB 06/06/74, and Joseph Charles Gess, DOB 21/06/67, both of Fairfield, Eastergate Lane, Walberton, Arundel, West Sussex. Both were charged with contravening the Betting Gaming and Duties Act 1981.

2. Images of the gaming machines are available on HMRC’s flickr channel

3. The gaming machines seized from the Gess brothers’ arcades were destroyed.

4. Amusement Machine Licence Duty (AMLD) was an excise duty. A payment was charged to licence each gaming machine, allowing it to be played in the UK.

5. AMLD was replaced on 1 February 2013 with Machine Games Duty (MGD). MGD (which also replaces VAT on gaming machine takings) applies to gaming machines that are provided for play and offer at least one prize which exceeds the smallest amount payable to play the game. Anyone responsible for premises with such machines must first register with HMRC, and must pay MGD calculated on the net takings of the machine.

6. Any failure to register for MGD, to file returns or make payment by the due dates may attract financial penalties. Where anyone is found guilty of the fraudulent evasion of MGD the courts may impose a custodial sentence of up to seven years

7. Further information is available at

8. Members of the public with information about excise duty fraud can contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000 or email

9. Follow HMRC on Twitter @HMRCgovuk

Issued by HM Revenue & Customs Press Office

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is the UK’s tax authority.

HMRC is responsible for making sure that the money is available to fund the UK’s public services and for helping families and individuals with targeted financial support.