The Irish government will be raising an extra 50 million euros from betting duty this year and activists are asking them to dedicate 10% of the sum to problem gambling. The government has resisted lobbying from the gambling firms to raise gambling taxes, but it had decided not to reinvest that money into problem gambling services.
Advocates for enhanced services for problem gambling suggest that putting even a small portion of this revenue towards helping families and individuals deal with gambling harm issues. However, the government says that the money has not been ring-fenced for this purpose. A Department of Finance spokesperson told TheJournal.i.e, that the extra money cannot be put directly into the problem gambling services since “ring-fencing of taxes does not generally occur in the Irish tax system.”
The authorities are currently mulling over long-awaited legislation for the gambling industry in the coming months, and the country could soon see an actual strategy put in place. It has already increased gambling duty from 1% to 2% and the betting intermediary duty from 15% to 20%. The change came into effect on January 1 this year. The decision has reversed the changes in 2006 when the duty fell from 2% to 1% and brought back just over 50 million euros for the government a year. The new rule will double this amount.
The Irish Bookmakers Association
Some groups did not support this change. The Irish Bookmakers Association, for instance, said that this move would affect the smaller and independent bookies disproportionately who will be vulnerable to going of business and cutting jobs.
Last month, the Minister of Finance Paschal Donohoe said that it was too early to make any conclusive remarks on the impact of this change. He also expressed his sympathy for the smaller bookmakers who could face problems and competition from large retailers. Companies like Paddy Power Betfair were lobbying the government regarding the same.
He said that he could not apply the betting duty increase selectively on bookmakers and said that any discussion on betting duty should acknowledge the raises public awareness on problem gambling. He also cited recent research from the UK Gambling Commission on gambling’s social effects.
A similar report published by the Health Research Board this week in Ireland suggests that about 0.8% of the population is crippled with problem gambling. In England, the figure is less than 1%, but in Northern Ireland, it is 2.3%. The government’s own bill to regulate gambling in the country is outdated. Since its publication in 2013, the industry has changed drastically, and the Department of Justice is now working on reviewing the bill and giving it an update by the end of March.