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Improvements still to be made in collecting betting taxes, says HRI CEO

Jake O'Donnell
Jake O'Donnell

10:15 17 Jan 2020

While improvements have been made in recent years, the government could still do more to recuperate tax from betting and provide funding for sports directly, according to the CEO of Horse Racing Ireland, Brian Kavanagh. 

Kavanagh was speaking on Friday Night Racing and made the case for the sport to be funded through taxes on the betting industry rather than from public money that could be used for other projects.

"Racing is the lion's share of betting and my view is that if the government have the taxation basis right there should be enough money for every sport," Kavanagh noted.

"What it means, more importantly, is that the industry is funded by gambling taxes which are taxes paid by those who choose to bet on an activity rather than from a general tax purse which is used for other social purposes."

While the popularity of betting in other sports such as football continues to grow, Kavanagh argued that to have leading sporting industries the government should assure they are properly funded, with one of the best ways through a betting tax.

"If we're aspiring to have our industry as a world leader why shouldn't we have a world-leading or equivalent funding basis?

"I'm absolutely certain we'll beat [other countries' racing industries] in terms of the quality of our trainers, the quality of our riders, the quality of our horses. What would hold us back is a sort of inadequate funding basis."

Kavanagh was also keen to point out that advancements have been made over the last number of years in fairly taxing the betting industry.

"The government has started looking at the rate of betting tax and we still feel there is perhaps some scope to further increase that rate.

"That should provide the basis of providing funding back to horse racing because you then have a situation which is what applies all across the world which is the government introduces some kind of arrangement to address this anomaly whereby racing creates a product and then gambling uses that product or exploits that product without maybe paying for the staging of that event."

After closing loopholes that allowed online betting to be routed through tax havens the government then extended the tax to cover online and telephone betting.

"That doubled the take to 50 million and last year they increased the rate to 2% and the figures we see now is the tax take for last year was 95 million.

"So the government has moved from a situation where it was getting €25 million and had to top that up with the money they were giving to horse racing to a situation where it's now getting €95 million and giving horse racing €67 million."

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