Ireland online betting tax to begin mid-year; senator fears online “lotto zombies”

ireland-online-betting-taxIreland-facing online gambling operators will start paying the new online betting tax this year after legislators finally approved their oft-delayed legislation.

On Thursday, Irish finance minister Michael Noonan said the Betting (Amendment) Bill had been sent to President Michael Higgins for signing, marking the culmination of a torturous process that began way back in 2011. The new regime will extend the 1% tax on betting turnover currently paid by retail bookmakers to online sportsbooks, while online betting exchanges like Betfair will pay 15% tax on betting profits.

Operators who wish to continue serving Irish punters must now apply for Irish online betting licenses. Reuters quoted a finance ministry spokesperson saying that the tax would likely take effect by the middle of this year. Had the tax been applied in 2014, Irish bookie Paddy Power believes their earnings would have been reduced by €8m.

In other Irish political news, Fine Gael senator Paul Coghlan made waves this week by warning that technical glitches in National Lottery terminals could spark an epidemic of “online Lotto junkies.” The retail terminals have experienced a few hiccups in recent weeks, leading to the postponement of one lottery draw and considerable punter frustration.

On Wednesday, Coghlan warned that the technical hiccups would “drive Lotto players away from ticket terminals in shops toward the online environment.” Coghlan reminded his fellow senators that the National Lottery believed there was “huge potential in growing the online sales channel.” Coghlan demanded lottery operators provide assurances that they will “introduce controls” to avoid the aforementioned Lotto junkies from overdosing on their online fix.

Ireland’s National Lottery allows online players to spend up to €75 per day, while player accounts can contain a balance of up to €750. Coghlan called these sums “inordinate amounts of money” for people to be spending on a state-owned (Intralot-operated) gambling outlet. A lottery spokesperson pointed out that the €75 limit was lower than many other countries, including the UK.