One of the laws due to come through the Dáil this autumn is the Betting (Amendment) Bill 2012. There is currently a tax of 1% on off-course betting income. This applies to any bet placed in a bookmakers but not to bets placed at a race track with the Tote. Recently, the rise of online betting due to better internet access and smart phones has resulted in a loss of money to the State. The money raised from the betting tax is reinvested into the horse and dog racing industries in Ireland.
In Budget 2012, last December the tax on betting was extended to remote betting and online bets but before the tax can be charged and collected, there has to be a licensing regime set up. That is what this Bill will do. By licensing, and taxing transactions through online betting sites and betting exchanges it is estimated it will raise about €14 million a year if all online bets in Ireland have the duty charged on them. The tax currently raises less than €30 million from a peak of €50 million in 2007.
The money raised from tax on bets in shops in Ireland goes into the Horse & Greyhound Fund. The State has also been adding other money in. This pot of money is used to support and develop the racing industry and as a prize fund to promote the domestic horse and dog races through Horse Racing Ireland and Bord na gCon. We want to stop having to subsidise these industries with other revenue so increased monies from online bets will help us do that, and also keep funding these important industries which generate a lot of economic activity, jobs, investment, trade and tourism.
Ireland has led the way in online betting with major companies like Paddy Power and Boylesports being particularly successful. In my own constituency the UK company Betfair is a major employer and provides quality employment and community support in Ringsend. Paddy Power also employs hundreds of people in Clonskeagh.
In the bill, a bookmaker is defined as a person, who in the course of business, takes bets, set odds and undertakes to pay out on winning bets. When the Bill is passed it will be against the law to take a bet from an Irish resident unless the website or company has a license.
There will be two types of license – a remote bookmaker’s license for ordinary online bets, and a remote betting intermediary’s license for websites and companies that offer chances for punters to bet against each other, not the betting company.
Someone currently operating with an ordinary bookmakers license will also now be able to take bets online up to a value of €200,000 or 10% of turnover. This will allow independent bookmakers to compete against the big companies.
There are a number of other changes including companies will now be able to hold bookmakers licenses and bookmaker shops will have extended opening hours to allow them more effectively compete against online betting.
Children under the age of 18 will be prohibited from betting online. It will also be an offense to pretend to be 18 or over and place a bet online, subject to a fine on summary conviction.
In the event that an online betting website breaks the law by not getting a license or complying with the legislation, the Minister for Justice can seek a court order to stop banks dealing with the business, prohibit advertising or sponsorship by the offending website, and direct a telecom or internet service provider to block access to the website. This is especially relevant for website of bookmakers operating outside Ireland.
Customers will also be protected under this legislation as a bookmaker license can be refused in future if the bookmaker refuses to pay out on a genuine bet.
If you have any general or specific questions on this Bill or any other, please don’t hesitate to contact my office.
Labour Party Dáil Eireann (Lenister House),
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