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Irish Gambling Regulation Delayed by Economic Crisis

The legislative landscape for online gambling in Ireland will remain unchanged after the betting bill of 2012 failed to reach Parliament amidst major concerns about the economy. A sixth consecutive austerity budget plan has been presented to the Irish Parliament, and has dominated political and public rhetoric. The current economic concerns will push Parliament’s consideration of the bill to the second half of 2013.

The betting bill of 2012 sets a legal framework for the regulation of the online gambling market and creates a source of revenue for the struggling nation. The legislation proposes a 1% levy on all betting exchanges for offshore operators and a 15% tax on gross profit turnover for operators such as Betfair. Furthermore, the betting bill will allow casinos to operate at later hours and provide regulations to protect customers. This bill is expected to raise over €20 million annually and provide a framework for operations in the online gaming market.

Although the basic outline has been formed in a 180-page manuscript, the betting bill faces further obstacles other than the pressing economic concerns in Ireland. The legislation must be sent to the European Union for approval and gambling experts predict that amendments will be inevitable to satisfy both the EU and the Irish government.  Another potential obstacle is the possibility of separate regulators for the lottery and gaming sectors, which will most likely be a hotly debated topic during the legislative process.

Nevertheless, most gambling experts predict that the legislation will inevitably become law within the next year or two.

“The fairly compelling revenue argument, combined with the need to effectively regulate the sector, dictates that this is probably going to get on the statute books, regardless of whatever objection that might come into the mix,” Kelly, a partner at A&L Goodbody, predicted. 

Operators will enjoy another few months without tax burdens and will have time to make adjustments for the inevitable legislation. While the betting bill is being postponed, Irish operators and government officials alike have been developing products and reforms to further develop the gambling landscape. 

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is currently working on a lottery amendment to launch a multi-million euro tender for the An Post National Lottery. Irish operator Paddy Power plans to add electronic gaming machines to some retail outfits and will be subject to a 20% tax on its profits under the United Kingdom’s Machine Games Duty. Furthermore, the current budget bill will further reduce the annual allocation to the Horse and Greyhound Fund from €56.29 million to €55 million.

Ireland will continue the trend of many governments toward regulating the rapidly growing online gambling market. Irish operators and bookies can only hope that the legislative process will be smooth and timely. 



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