Horse Racing Ireland continues to push for increase in rates of betting tax

Record prize money of €63.3m is in place for racing in 2018, up by €2.2m on 2017

Horse Racing Ireland will continue lobbying for an increase in betting tax in 2018 despite repeated refusal by Government to do so.

Frustration at that led HRI's chairman Joe Keeling to declare earlier this month that some cabinet members need to "adopt some bravery" on the issue. He also claimed the Government showed a "baffling lack of support" for racing in not increasing betting tax.

The sport’s semi-State administrative body has argued the current tax rate of 1 per cent, which is absorbed by bookmaking firms, should be increased to 2.5 per cent with the extra charge being passed on to customers.

HRI has also called for an increase in commission on gross profits in betting exchanges and insists Ireland currently has one of the lowest rates of betting tax in the world.


It released its budget plans for 2018 on Friday and revealed how reserve funds that have been built up over the years will be needed to carry out budgeted programmes next year. That includes a record €63.3 million in prize money, up by €2.2 million on 2017.

HRI's chief executive Brian Kavanagh said it wasn't possible to put a precise figure on the reserve funds which had been built up through "prudence in previous years". He also said such a move was sustainable for 2018 only.

Kavanagh insisted developing sustainable income streams will be a “priority” for HRI in the new year and an increase in betting tax will be central to that even though Government hasn’t moved on the issue since cutting the rate from two per cent to one per cent in 2006.


“That doesn’t mean we should stop making the point. If you believe something is right you have to persevere,” the HRI boss said.

Kavanagh outlined how HRI has a five-year plan and said: “We will look at all our revenue streams, media rights, the Horse & Greyhound Fund, profits from the Tote, entry fees and so on. But the key area around funding is the Horse & Greyhound Fund.”

He pointed out the gap between tax raised and money given to racing by the State has narrowed in the 18 months since offshore betting started being collected but that the fund still has to be topped up.

“Horse racing has never said that if betting tax yield went from €51 or €53 million to €200 million that racing should get all the money,” Kavanagh said.

However, he did point out there is a link in legislation between tax yield and State contribution to racing and that betting tax, which he stressed is lower than rates in other countries where the betting firms also operate, should be increased.

Part of HRI's 2018 budget is an increased commitment of €9.1 million to racing's integrity services. Among other steps, funding for the Irish Equine Centre will increase to €2.2 million.

The budget has been drawn up on the back of the Government announcing no increase in 2018 to the €64 million given to racing through the Horse & Greyhound Fund.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column