As race week is upon us, it is opportune to consider the recent changes to Ireland’s betting laws. The Betting (Amendment) Act, 2015 (the “Act”) came into operation on the 15th April 2015. This Act updates the existing provisions regulating retail bookmakers and introduces a licensing regime for remote bookmakers and betting intermediaries (betting exchanges).
The Act introduces two new types of licence:-
- A remote bookmaker’s licence for operators offering remote betting to customers based in Ireland (i.e. internet and mobile betting providers).
- A remote betting intermediary’s licence for operators who facilitate Irish customers making bets (i.e. betting exchanges).
Remote betting operators will be required to obtain their relevant licence regardless of whether or not they have a physical presence in Ireland. They will also have to pay tax on betting transactions with Irish customers.
Separately, current holders of retail bookmaker’s licences will be required, on the expiry of those licences, to apply for a new licence in accordance with the new licensing application process set out in the Act. A welcome feature in the Act provides that a bookmaker operating under a bookmaker’s licence can now also accept bets placed remotely, provided the value of those bets in any one year does not exceed the lower of (i) €250,000 or (ii) 10% of the bookmaker’s turnover in that year.
The new application process for the three types of licence involves a two stage process:-
Firstly, the applicant (which can now be a corporate entity as well as an individual) must apply for a Certificate of Personal Fitness (COPF) from either the Gardaí or the Minister for Justice depending on the type of licence being applied for and whether the applicant is resident in Ireland or elsewhere.
Secondly, an application must be submitted to the Revenue Commissioners together with the COPF and the relevant excise duty to obtain the actual licence. The Revenue Commissioners will ensure that the applicant has a valid Tax Clearance Certificate before issuing a licence.
The excise duty on the initial grant and renewal of a bookmaker’s licence is €500. The excise duty on the initial grant of a remote bookmaker’s licence and a remote betting intermediary’s licence is €10,000. On the renewal of these latter two licences, the excise duty is also €10,000 together with an additional amount linked to the level of annual turnover/level of annual commission earnings in the previous year.
The new legislation also extends the existing 1% turnover based “betting duty” which currently applies to bookmakers, to remote bookmakers. The betting duty for remote bookmakers is 1% of every bet entered into with persons in the State. A betting intermediary duty applies to remote betting intermediaries at a rate of 15% of commission charges.
A licence is valid for two years and a bookmaker’s licence will expire on the 30th November of every second year following the enactment of the legislation. A remote betting licence or remote betting intermediary’s licence will expire on the 30th June of the second year following the enactment of the legislation.
As of 1st August 2015, all sections of the legislation (except section 18) have now come into effect. It is an offence to operate as a bookmaker, a remote bookmaker or as a remote betting intermediary without a licence. The penalty for operating without a licence is a fine of up to €5,000 on summary conviction or a fine of up to €150,000 for a first offence (€300,000 for repeat offenders) or imprisonment for up to five years, or both, on conviction on indictment.