Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Finance Michael McGrath has described a continuing delay to the extension of betting duty to online gambling as completely unacceptable. He was speaking in response to a parliamentary reply from the Minister for Finance which indicated that plans to extend the 1% levy paid by bookmakers to online gambling had run into considerable difficulty. Currently the levy is only paid in respect of bets placed in licenced betting offices. There has been a considerable trend towards online betting in recent years which has accelerated with the growth of smart phone aps. In a €4bn market annually nearly 40% of bets placed by Irish customers are now made online.

“The Betting Amendment Bill 2014 was a long overdue piece of legislation as the 2011 Finance Act provided for to the extension of betting duty subject to an appropriate licencing mechanism being put in place. However it now seems to be stuck in limbo. In the intervening 3 years upwards of €5bn in bets placed remotely have escaped the 1% betting duty, resulting in a loss to the Exchequer of some €50m. This loss is now growing at rate of €1.5m a month.

“While the Minister has provided a number of technical explanations for the delay the simple fact of the matter is that a considerable proportion of betting activity remains tax free. The bookmaking firms have been expecting to make this payment for a number of years. They simply cannot believe their luck that they have been able to avoid doing so up to now.

“The Minister for Finance needs to make the resolution of this issue a priority. The fact that he recently brought forward separate legislative proposals for the extension of betting shop opening hours indicates that he has effectively long fingered the betting bill. This is not acceptable. There is a considerable sum of money at stake and fairness dictates that the State should be able to collect the revenue reasonably due it. I will be pressing the Minister to take whatever action is necessary to definitively solve this issue.”