Ladbrokes plans to close Irish on-course shops

13 November 2018

Ladbrokes is set to close all its on-course bookmaking services in Ireland in the first major reaction to the Irish government's decision to double gambling tax in last month’s Budget.

The gambling company has also vowed to cut sponsorship spend at the eight racecourses where it currently has a presence. This constitutes a blow to the Irish racing industry, which has been a prominent supporter of the lifting of the duty from 1% to 2% of revenue.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Ladbrokes Ireland director Jackie Murphy said she would be surprised if any company chose to take over the on-course facilities at Galway, Limerick, Killarney, Punchestown, Listowel, Navan, Gowran Park and Clonmel.

"No one would be doing it to make money,” she said.

Murphy told the newspaper that on-course takings range from as little as €6,000 (£5,200/$6,800) to as much as 10 times that amount on major race days at Punchestown.

She suggested that following the tax hike the only way to make the on-course shops viable would be for the racecourses to offer them rent-free.

Horse Racing Ireland welcomed the Budget announcement last month, suggesting the betting industry was exaggerating the impact of the tax increase. The government hopes to raise €50m through the increase, which will be used to support the racing industry and problem gambling services. That figure has been branded a “fantasy” by the Irish Bookmakers Association (IBA), with a report last week suggesting a black hole of €35m due to expected shop closures.

In the immediate aftermath of the Budget, Boylesports began a review of all its shops in Ireland. It confirmed the seriousness of the situation in a letter to staff across its 250 shops, which warned that jobs could be lost.

Speaking to iGamingBusiness.com last month, Sharon Byrne, the chair of the IBA, said “people are desperate,” with fears that the country’s independent sector will be “wiped out”. She added the move is a “tragedy” for the 200 remaining small shops in Ireland that survived the recession but are now rendered “unviable”.

While the IBA and its members have spent the last month campaigning for a U-turn, they are believed to pessimistic about the likelihood of forcing the government to change its mind.

Image: Paul (Flickr)