Friday, January 22nd – The Irish Bookmakers Association have said that the recently published proposals for reform of betting from the Labour Party would, if implemented, pose a number of significant difficulties for the sector.

We have, however, welcomed the document as an important contribution to a debate that should take place on reform of betting and racing in Ireland today.

The key points made by the IBA are:

” The Labour Party is right to seek to reform the approach to betting and racing in Ireland today, and we have highlighted the need for reform many times. However, the direct impact of what the Labour Party is proposing would pose a number of significant difficulties for our sector.

” We are very concerned at the level and type of tax regime that the Labour Party has outlined in this document. Betting on Irish events including horse and greyhound racing accounts for less than 15% of our total business, yet it is proposed to retain a tax on 100% of our turnover. The level of funding that we are responsible for should take into account the fact that the vast majority of our business is not derived from Irish events.

” For example, Horse Racing Ireland received 142,000 per meeting from betting shops in 2009. This is in addition to the income from ATR/TurfTv and Internet streaming for pictures. However, it is estimated that it costs 75,000 to stage a meeting. This highlights the disproportionate level of income that goes to HRI from bookmakers.

” The IBA believes that the reform that is needed in this area is the introduction of a tax on profits. A tax on profit would be a far fairer way to deal with the issue of taxation and would also generate inward investment. Under the published proposals, Ireland will remain as one of the only countries to tax turnover.

” Increasing betting duty to 1.5% would also seriously affect independent and off-course bookmakers leading to significant shop closures and job losses. In the last 12 months alone, 105 betting shops have closed with the loss of more than 500 jobs. The last year has been particularly tough for all businesses, and to increase the pressure on betting shops at this time would force many to cease trading and drive up unemployment.

” In respect of the online proposals, as can be seen from other EU countries legal action would almost certainly arise that would, we believe, tie the issue up in the courts for a long time. In the meantime, betting shops would remain the only contributors to the betting tax.

” Simple reforms should be progressed now. These include spreading out race meetings so that there is more consumer choice throughout the year, making better use of facilities such as the all-weather track at Dundalk and extending the hours that betting shops can trade. These are common sense solutions that we would like to see being progressed.

Commenting on the proposals, Sharon Byrne, Chairperson, Irish Bookmakers Association stated:

“Some of the proposals announced – however well intentioned – would have a serious and negative impact on the bookmaking sector which today employs more than 5,000 people nationwide.

“There is a need for reform in how we approach betting and racing in Ireland. The legislation governing our sector is hopelessly out of date. We welcome engagement on the reform of our sector, but believe that protecting existing jobs and creating new opportunities, and generating new investment for Ireland Inc, needs to be the benchmark against which any reforms are judged.”