Bookies condemn betting tax increase

The doubling of betting tax will put bookmakers out of business and lead to job losses, industry figures warned yesterday.

Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan yesterday announced that the Government will double the current 1 per cent levy on bookies‘ turnover to 2 per cent, which will net the exchequer EUR 40 million.

He is also proposing to cut the Horse and Greyhound Fund – which is linked to the betting tax and supports both racing codes – by 9 per cent next year, to EUR 55 million.

The Irish Bookmakers‘ Association (IBA) said that the extra charge cannot be passed on to the customer and will „immediately drive sole trader bookmakers out of business and make it extremely difficult for small companies to survive“.

Paddy Power, head of communications with the listed chain of the same name, told The Irish Times that the company was disappointed with the measure.

He pointed out that shops with the highest turnover will be hit hardest. „We’ll just have to roll up our sleeves and find a way of dealing with it,“ he said.

David Hood, director of racing and public relations with British-based firm, William Hill, warned that the measure will make ownership of some betting shops unsustainable and lead to redundancies.

KPMG tax partner, Eoghan Quigley, predicted that it would cause job losses, and argued that in this context, it would not be worth it.

Horse Racing Ireland (HRI), the sport’s ruling body, said the cut in the Horse and Greyhound Fund will hit prize money and capital programmes and provoke an examination of costs throughout the industry. HRI said it was concerned that there is no certainty of Government funding beyond 2009.

The fund, which has underpinned the development of the sport in Ireland, is due for renewal in February.

„This has to have an effect on all areas and I don’t think we can escape the reality of cutbacks everywhere, including on prize money and our capital development programmes,“ said chief executive Brian Kavanagh.

Current HRI capital projects include the EUR 100 million redevelopment of the Curragh racecourse.