Horse Racing Ireland chief executive Brian Kavanagh has said the very survival of horse racing in this country depends on the government subjecting offshore betting companies to the same levies as those operating in this country.
HRI believe that the current one per cent levy for off-track betting should be doubled and that online betting companies should be included in the same tax net as those on the high streets. Brian Kavanagh was especially keen to stress the latter point yesterday.
Currently, tax-free offshore bookmakers are not subject to the one per cent betting levy although legislation is currently being prepared with a view to altering that situation. The actual enforcement of any new regulations will be more more difficult however, and has already proved almost impossible in other countries.
Kavanagh told the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that such measures can hardly be drafted quickly enough:
“It is imperative that we get this right for the very survival of our industry. We believe this is a potential win-win situation as it could save the exchequer €30m, which is the top-up that it has been putting in annually on top of betting tax. It would remove the funding of horse and greyhound racing from the central exchequer and could actually protect jobs in the betting industry by creating a level playing pitch. It can also protect jobs in the horse and greyhound industry by creating a security of funding which is not dependent on a government grant. It would still leave Ireland with the lowest rate of betting tax in the world. This is a showpiece industry. If it wasn’t here it is exactly the type of industry that the country would be trying to create.”
The government announced last May that they intended to introduce legislation to reform the betting industry and deal with the increased amount of betting which is being routed outside the state to avoid payment of betting duty.
Kavanagh said that “urgent” action was needed and pointed to a list of figures – the 16,500 full-time jobs, the sector’s value of over €1bn to the economy and ability to attract 80,000 visitors annually – as it’s importance to the country.