As Cheltenham fever fades for another year, we cast our eye over recently introduced changes to Irish betting rules. The Betting (Amendment) Act 2015 (the "2015 Act") ushers in a variety of important updates to the current regime, particularly for online and mobile betting. As a result of the changes, both remote bookmakers and remote betting intermediaries have been brought within the licensing and taxation regimes. This means that online bookmakers and betting exchanges must now be licensed where they accept or facilitate bets from an Irish customer. The introduction of the 2015 Act also widens the net for betting duty, which already covers traditional bookmakers.
The 2015 Act
The 2015 Act introduces significant changes to the Betting Act 1931 (the "1931 Act"). Although the 1931 Act has been amended on several occasions, it was somewhat out-dated and did not reflect the many ways betting has changed over the last eighty years. Until the recent amendments, many methods of betting were unlicensed and not subject to specific betting taxes.
Tradition and Technology
The fundamental definition of bookmaker as "a person, who in the course of business takes bets, sets odds and undertakes to pay out winning bets" covers the traditional understanding of the term. With betting practices and offerings having changed significantly, particularly in the past decade or so, the 2015 Act extends the regulatory regime beyond this traditional notion of bookmaking. The 2015 Act's most significant aim is to create a regulatory system for remote bookmakers (such as by internet or telephone) and betting intermediaries (otherwise known as "betting exchanges") which may not necessarily have a physical presence in the State but offer betting services to Irish customers.
Licensing of remote providers
Under the provisions of the 2015 Act, remote bookmakers and betting intermediaries selling to Irish customers will be brought within the Irish licensing and taxation regimes, regardless of their location. It will be an offence to act as a bookmaker, a remote bookmaker or a betting intermediary without an Irish-issued licence. Licenses will cost in the region of €10,000 and will be renewable every two years. The establishment of this licencing regime has been coupled with an extension of the existing 1% betting duty (which currently applies to bookmakers) to remote bookmakers. A separate betting intermediary duty shall apply to betting exchanges, costing 15% of charges levied to Irish-based customers. According to figures provided by the Irish Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan TD, it is estimated that the extension of betting duty could net an additional €25m for the State.
Under the 2015 Act, it is now an offence to operate as a bookmaker, a remote bookmaker or as a remote betting intermediary without a licence. Those who are convicted for operating without a licence can be penalised by a €5,000 fine. Fines of up to €150,000 and/or imprisonment may be imposed if the case is heard on indictment. Fines of up to €300,000 can be imposed in respect of repeat offenders.
The final tally
The 2015 Act modernises Irish betting laws with specific emphasis on online or "remote" betting. Providers of remote betting services and betting exchanges with Irish-based customers should apply for and maintain relevant licences as now required by the 2015 Act. Coupled with the licence, it is also important to be aware of the extension of the taxation regime to cover these newly-licensed providers. Further changes also appear to be upcoming in the broader arena of gambling by way of the Gambling Control Bill, which will have further repercussions for both providers in this space.
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