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Ireland advances gaming regulation and taxes

The Irish government yesterday agreed a new legal mechanism for the operation and regulation of casinos in the Republic. It would put tighter controls on the industry, place a block on super casinos, but allow small casinos to open, and would heighten taxes for online operators.

[Ireland] Finance Minister Michael Noonan put forward the Betting (Amendment) Bill that would extend the existing 1 percent tax on bets made in bookmakers, to online casinos. The Cabinet agreed on the measure, which will now be submitted to the EU Commission for approval before it can become law, expected at the end of the year.

“This bill will bring into place a fair and equitable licensing and regulatory regime for all bookmakers and betting intermediaries,” informed Noonan, “This bill, once enacted, will allow for the extension of betting duty to remote bookmakers and will ensure that all bookmakers activities offered in the State are taxed equally.”

Raising tax by 1 percent on online operators alone is expected to net between €15m-€17m for the State annually. Horse Racing Ireland and the Greyhound Board, the State bodies that oversee Irelands’ horse and dog racing, greatly welcome the measure as their government grants have been in steady decline over the past few years.

As part of the republic’s new gambling regime, which will be published later this week, other issues involved the prevention of super casinos in the State. Michael Lowry, Independent TD legislator, had hoped the government would consider opening Las Vegas-style casino developments, injecting major investment and jobs to the area, and supported a €460m casino project at Two-Mile Borris in Co Tipperary.

Although the government has moved against permitting a facility of such magnitude, the new gambling regime could enable a scaled-down version of the complex. Developers have said they would not proceed with the planned 500-room hotel, conference centre and state-of-the-art racetrack unless the casino is first approved.