Online Gambling Threatened in Ireland

Published Monday, April 06, 2009 -

Martin Cullen, the Irish parliament minister for sport has threatened to ban internet betting in Ireland if bookmakers don't give more money to the Exchequer to help the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund.

Mr. Cullen wants to make a reduction in government payouts to the fund by just over Euro 1.5 million this year, despite widespread predictions that it is facing a major cut as a reaction to the economic problems in the nation.

Cullen said that government financial support for the controversial fund was soon to end, and he is expecting Irish online bookmakers and offshore online gambling operators to contribute substantially to the horse racing industry in the future.
"It is not sustainable to continue to support this fund from the Exchequer," Cullen was quoted as saying, "The big players will need to come to the plate. A view will need to be formed about Internet and offshore betting. I will use whatever legal levers are available to me to get at that funding in terms of trying to get some tax out of it."

The Minister, said that a levy of 0.5 percent on Internet gambling would yield over Euro 100 million, remarking, "The reality is that most betting is now offshore. There are choices to be made, and I am making it clear to the industry that we will make those choices. "The ultimate choice would be to ban it. That approach has been taken in America and perhaps it will be taken in other countries as well. However, I do not want to go down that road. I believe there is a means of taking action."
The debate on sports funding goes on in Ireland with some saying a tax would actually cause a loss of Irish jobs. The horse and greyhound racing fund has been reduced by almost 10 percent in the last 12 months, but it still makes up a third of the country's total sports budget, up from one quarter in 2008, because of cuts in other areas. For example the scrapping of the Sports Capital Programme, which since its inception eight years ago, aided 6700 projects across the country. Recent figures revealed that half of Horse Racing Ireland's expenditure goes to prize money payed to wealthy horse owners, most of which live outside the country.

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