The administrator for Irish horseracing, Horse Racing Ireland (HRI), has called on the Government to tax all offshore online and telephone betting as the industry reported its first decline for over 15 years.
HRI reported that last year saw participation in horseracing grow to its highest levels ever in terms of the number of fixtures, races, runners and owners. In addition, there was also a rise in the amount of total prize money, which drove investment in bloodstock and provided commercial incentives to put horses into training.
However, most other key performance indicators were down with attendances at Ireland’s 27 racetracks falling by nine percent to 1.390 million last year from the record 1.527 million in 2007. More than half of this overall drop was attributed to the significant number of meetings lost due to inclement weather, especially from August to October. There were 42 cancellations in total for 2008, which was up from only twelve the year before.
On-course betting turnover fell by 18.2 percent with bookmakers reporting a 21.5 percent drop while the Tote revealed a 10.1 percent decrease. In addition, bloodstock sales at public auction fell by 43.6 percent to $130.224 million, reflecting a breeding industry now under significant pressure.
“With so many demands on Government resources and finances, now is the time for the racing industry to become truly self-financing, as it is in most other countries,” said Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive for HRI.
“This can be done with a meaningful levy on betting, including all off-shore Internet and telephone betting, which has wrongly escaped the taxation net up to this point.
“Racecourses generate employment and tourism activity and the industry needs long-term certainty of funding so that we can put in place the borrowings required to undertake the necessary capital investment.”