Irish bookies unhappy with online tax delay

Irish bookies unhappy with online tax delay

Thursday, December 18, 2014 Totally Gaming

Ireland-based bookmakers have revealed their frustration to after the latest setback in the country’s attempt to tax remote gambling companies.

The Betting (Amendment) Bill 2013, which would introduce a one percent tax on all bets placed by Irish online gamblers, has been delayed until at least January following a complaint from Malta to European authorities about aspects relating to licensing.

The Irish government believes that the approval of the new gambling legislation, which was first introduced tax three years ago, could bring additional revenues to the treasury of approximately €25m ($31.6m).

Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan has admitted his own frustration at the delay and has vowed to “progress all remaining stages of the bill through” following a parliamentary debate about the issue. The delay is a further blow for the Irish Bookmakers Association (IBA), which represents more than half of the betting shops in Ireland, including Boylesports, Ladbrokes, William Hill and independent companies.

IBA chair Sharon Byrne told “We are not surprised there have been further delays, as we have been looking for online operators to be taxed for several years now.

“It is disappointing that Malta have left it so late in the process to raise their issue. I know the Department of Finance had been trying very hard to get this bill across the line, but it is effectively out of their control now.

“The bill will either be acceptable or not. If not, our Finance department will have to go back to the drawing board, and this will mean the process will start all over again.”

While the Bill has been a long and hard fight for Noonan and the government, the IBA is not convinced that it will make a huge difference to those companies that must pay a number of taxes as business costs. It is estimated that 40 percent of bets placed by Irish punters are made online, with around €4 billion thought to be gambled in the country annually.

“The tax would be a slight levelling of the playing field," Byrne said. “It is extremely unfair that the retail sector has been the only sector of the gambling industry paying this betting/turnover tax. This tax is in addition to every other tax that businesses must pay.”

inance Minister Noonan has said that up to €11m of the additional funds generated by the one percent tax will go towards capital and other investment in the country’s horse and greyhound racing industries. Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney recently said that racing is the source of 24,000 jobs in the country and stimulates €1.6 billion in economic output. 

However, the IBA is displeased about the prospect of continuing to pay for the country’s racing industry.

“We pay one percent on all turnover, whereas Irish horse racing only accounts for 12 percent of our retail turnover," Byrne said. "Such high costs for a product that is in decline in our shops is not sustainable.”

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