Online gambling tax set to accumulate €17 million for State

Law to extend 1% levy to online gambling could come into effect later this year

A Bill that will pave the way for State to tax online gambling will go before cabinet today, sparking speculation that it will finally become law by the end of the year.

The Government pledged to extend the existing 1 per cent levy on bets placed in bookie shops to online wagers shortly after it took power, but the plan has encountered a series of delays.

The Cabinet is due to discuss the Betting Amendment Bill, which will make this possible, at its meeting today and it is likely to give the go-ahead for it to be published.

It will then go to the EU Commission for approval, a process that will take up to three months, and before it goes before the Oireachtas later this year to be passed into law.

Estimates of the amount of cash the tax will raise for the State vary, but the figure is believed to be between €15 million and €17 million.

Horse Racing Ireland and the Greyhound Board, the State bodies that oversee horse and dog racing in the Republic, are likely to welcome any progress with the legislation.

Both want the extra cash raised to be allocated to the State-administered Horse and Greyhound Fund, on which they partly rely for finance. Grants to the scheme have fallen from €61 million in 2008 to €44 million this year.

The original 2001 legislation creating the fund established a link between it and the betting tax. Former minister for finance Brian Lenihan broke the connection between the two in 2008, but pledged that the State would continue to support both.

A Government-commissioned report by economic consultants Indecon last year said the existing betting tax raised €28 million in 2011, and pointed out that there was a considerable shortfall between this figure and the grant to the Horse and Greyhound fund.

Indecon estimated that total betting turnover in the Republic of Ireland came to €4.365 billion, implying that extending the tax to online betting would come to close to making up the shortfall.

Bookmakers such as Boylesports and Paddy Power have warned that enforcement will be critical, as a failure to levy it on overseas operators will hand them a competitive advantage.

Michael Bent, head of finance at Boylesports said yesterday the firm was happy to pay once there was a level playing field for everyone in the market. "In the event of there not being a level playing field, the only ones that will be penalised will be Irish companies," he said.

Paddy Power has said in the past that the tax could cost it about €6 million a year. Ladbrokes, the biggest overseas operator in the Irish market, has already indicated it would comply with the law.

Last year, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney warned that racing did not have an automatic entitlement to the extra cash raised.