Horse racing administrator calls for taxation of Internet betting sites

Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive for Horse Racing Ireland (HRI), has raised the profile of online gambling by asking the Irish government to consider taxing all offshore online and telephone betting. The horseracing industry in the Emerald Isle has been taking a beating due to the adverse economic climate, recording its first decline in business in more than 15 years, reports the Irish media.

After a busy 2008 where horseracing grew to its highest levels yet in number of fixtures, races, runners and owners, the sudden decline has administrators worried.

HRI reports that key performance indicators showed attendances at Ireland's 27 racetracks falling by 9 percent to 1.39 million last year from the record 1.53 million in 2007. Much of this overall drop was attributed to the significant number of meetings lost due to inclement weather, especially from August to October. There were 42 cancellations in total for 2008, a major increase on the 12 recorded the year previous.

On-course betting turnover fell by 18.2 percent with bookmakers reporting a 21.5 percent drop while the Tote revealed a 10.1 percent decrease. In addition, bloodstock sales at public auction fell by 43.6 percent.

"With so many demands on government resources and finances, now is the time for the racing industry to become truly self-financing, as it is in most other countries," said Kavanagh. "This can be done with a meaningful levy on betting, including all off-shore Internet and telephone betting, which has wrongly escaped the taxation net up to this point.

"Racecourses generate employment and tourism activity and the industry needs long-term certainty of funding so that we can put in place the borrowings required to undertake the necessary capital investment," he opined.

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