Ireland to Increase Tax on Gambling?

Government moves closely watched

The next moves of the financially troubled Irish government in terms of changing gambling tax at this week's budget presentation have been closely monitored by the whole Irish gambling industry.

According to the Irish Times, the troubled Irish horseracing sector is hoping for support from Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, through an increase in betting tax to 2 percent. It also advocates that the government should enlarge the tax net by including telephone and off-shore internet. The latter is a course fraught with peril, with major internet gaming companies warning that they may be required to develop new business strategies in order to remain competitive, at the cost of jobs and tax revenues.

Yesterday, Horse Racing Ireland chief executive Brian Kavanagh said: 'Clearly it is a huge Budget for the country and major issues have to be addressed. But from racing's perspective it is important that all forms of betting are brought into the tax net, and then there is the question of the tax rate itself.'

It was further reported by the Irish Times that the Horse and Greyhound Fund finances noted a great drop from a high of Euro 76 million, to Euro 59 million this year, with betting tax bringing in only Euro 31 million. This means that Euro 28 million is being added to the fund directly by the Exchequer.

Organizations representing the racing and breeding industries appointed UCD economist Colm McCarthy to draft a report and present it to the government, in which he recommended to double the betting tax rate to two percent. It was stated by certain off-course betting organizations that they could accept this, but provided that the tax is applied across the board to telephone and betting exchange turnover. Others have cautioned that such a move would cause serious job losses.

However, McCarthy estimated in his report that the move would actually bring up to Euro 70 million in revenue, making a significant and in the current state of matters rare contribution to the funding for a semi-state organization like HRI.

In 2009, the Finance Act proposed an increase in betting tax, but it was held over until the question of offshore betting taxation is being solved. In terms of employment, the racing industry supports about 14,000 jobs in Ireland, receiving revenue from betting tax.

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