Decision imminent for Irish gamblers

Government decision on online gambling review due soon

Irish media are reporting that a government decision is ‘imminent’ on a major review of gambling that includes the opening up of an internet gambling regulatory structure capable of creating a new source of e-commerce revenues and employment.

Between 5 000 and 8 000 new Irish jobs could be created if the archaic 1956 Gaming and Lotteries Act is amended to allow the country to become an online gambling licensing and support jurisdiction like the Isle of Man, Malta, Gibraltar and Alderney.

According to a study by DKM Consultants, a significant number of jobs for e-commerce professionals, web developers, accountants, business analysts and mathematicians could be created, with average pay packets in the region of Euro 40,000 per annum.

If Ireland were to capture just a 5 percent share of the global online casino business it would represent a local sector worth Euro 2.2 billion, the review estimates. However, it is feared that continued delays in amending the 1956 law here could mean these opportunities might be snapped up by countries such as Spain and France.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice said that on 1 May the Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern TD, initiated a major review of gambling from within his department.

"The review will provide Government with options for a new and comprehensive legal and organisational framework governing the gambling architecture in the State, including remote gambling. Three important considerations, which are the hallmark of most well-regulated gambling codes, inform the review."

These are:

- That young people and the vulnerable are protected.

- That gambling should in all respects be fairly and openly conducted.

- That gambling is kept free of crime.

The spokesman said the public consultation phase of the review has now been completed. Since 1 May 2009, material on the department's website in relation to this has been viewed more than 5,000 times; 71 submissions have been received from interested parties and more than 50 face-to-face meetings have been held.

"Following the settling of policy in relation to a new gambling architecture for the State, legislative proposals will be published in the normal course," the spokesman said.

The optimism generated by the reports is perhaps tempered by the recent news (see previous InfoPowa reports) that the Irish government is seeking to support the country’s racing industry with a new tax on internet gambling.

Paddy Power bookmakers said that in a speech Taoiseach Brian Cowen TD gave to the horse-racing industry recently he suggested the industry would receive financial support into the future through taxes on online betting.

The betting company said that such a development is of concern to local firms because less than 10 percent of online bets are related to horse racing. Some Euro 540 million over the last 10 years has been given to the horse-racing industry from betting taxes.

Paddy Power and Boyle Sports have additionally pointed out that they are the only online betting companies domiciled in Ireland, employing Irish men and women and liable for Irish tax.

"Our concern is that of the Top 10 bookies in Ireland, ourselves and Boyle Sports are the only two actually based here,” a spokesman commented.

"We have no problem paying an online betting tax as long as it is enforceable and others pay it, too."

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