Ireland is more of an island than an actual country for its provinces and cities are divided between two countries: the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. It is home to the world-famous Guinness dry stout, the Ring of Kerry (or the Iveragh Peninsula), the fun city of Dublin, the Cliffs of Moher, the Giant’s Causeway, sheer precipices, moving green slopes, pleasing and mountainous landscapes, a variety of lakes, attractive castles, historical forts, the cosmopolitan city of Cork, the intriguing Blarney Stone, John F. Kennedy Arboretum, the charming medieval town of Killarney, and the horse racing city of Galway. Ireland is a frequently-visited territory. Let’s take a look at the gambling industry of Ireland to deduce if Ireland should be a dream destination for gamblers.
Gambling has quite a history in Ireland. For one, some historians claim gambling has existed in Ireland since the Middle Ages, far before the Irish people received Christianity. Bone games, dice, and glass beads have been found by archaeologists in old Irish sites. Without any certainty, one can assume that these items were used for gambling.
Ireland, as a territory, was secluded from other European territories until the early 17th century when the British Empire gained control of the island after England’s possession. Following this, the first notable gambling activity within Ireland appeared between the 17th and 18th centuries. Between these centuries, horse racing became popular in Ireland.
Blackjack, roulette, and baccarat were popular in other European territories but they made their way to Ireland late and through the British. The British introduced card as well as board games but the citizens gambled more on horse racing. Even today, horse racing betting is the leader of all forms of gambling in Ireland. Irish people are believed to have a historical love for horses, so it is only logical that horse racing betting became popular.
Soon, regulatory bodies were set up to regulate horse racing and race meetings became a norm. At the time, Ireland was an autonomous British colony so the country’s landlords were in control of the land after seizing it from Irish Catholics. The landlords had a simple aim to make as much money as possible, so the country was woefully unlawful. The regulatory bodies were not functional and gambling, as a whole, was unnoticed by the government and poorly regulated.
Despite the popularity, however, racetracks were not built in the country for a long period of time. In fact, there were no gambling facilities in the country until the 20th century. However, there were various gambling activities in the country at the time.
In 1919, a war broke out between the British security forces and the Irish Republican Army (IRA). This war, the Irish War of Independence, ended in 1921 and resulted in a ceasefire after Ireland was declared independent. A year later, the Irish Free State was established. This took a turn in the fate of Irish gambling as the independent government was ready to strengthen the country’s economy and all industries.
In 1926, Ireland passed the first law concerning the regulation of gambling – called the Betting Act. In 1929, the Totalisator Act – which regulates pari-mutuel betting – was approved. In 1931, the Betting Act was further revised. The two significant revisions was a requirement to be licensed by the government before offering bets on a sporting event and a €500 fine if found guilty of illegal gambling (the amount was huge at the time).
Another Act was passed in 1956, the Gaming and Lotteries Act. The Betting Act created a regulatory requirement for betting while the Gaming and Lotteries Act did the same for other forms of gambling. However, the latter Act declared casinos and other gambling facilities illegal – exceptions were lotteries with a charitable purpose and a number of games of skill. Therefore, there were no state or private lotteries.
At the time, there were many casinos and in a few years, many emerged. One might wonder how there were many casinos in the country when the law clearly prohibited them. Well, there was an escape clause in the law which allowed clubs with private members to offer gambling activities. With this, many gambling establishments disguised as private members’ clubs for an opportunity to offer what a typical casino would. The requirement: a player must register so as to become a member, therefore able to gamble in the club.
Moreover, the clubs were self-regulated so everything was in favor of the gambling operators except due business taxes. They could legally choose 18 or 21 years as their minimum age. Some offered alcoholic beverages like modern casinos. Some opened 24/7. Many emerged in Dublin, offering a number of slot machines and table games (such as roulette, baccarat, and blackjack) to their “members” and making enough money from it.
As a result, Ireland’s gambling industry was not massive when compared to other territories in the United Kingdom and other countries in Europe. The industry was more underground and less of a gambling market since there were many clubs but they could not offer as many equipment as they wished.
In 1975, a Financial Act, which subjected slot machines to regulation, was approved. Meanwhile, the Gaming and Lotteries Act covers slot machines and other gaming machines. Another Financial Act was approved in 1992, which permits amusement machines.
In the 1980s, Ireland was going through a metamorphosis to strengthen its economy – from farming to industrial services. Consequentially, the government needed to fund healthcare, education and other social development services. Six years into the decade, the parliament – after a series of debates – passed the National Lottery Act. The Act established the Irish National Lottery (An Crannchur Náisiúnta), which could sell tickets to citizens aged 18 or older.
Meanwhile, Ireland has been pressured by the European Union to update its supposing outdated Betting Act and Gaming and Lotteries Act. The recurring pressures yielded a result in July 2013 when the Gaming Control Bill was introduced by the parliament and a draft was published.
The new and improved law would embrace the licensing and regulation of casinos and other land-based gambling facilities. Gaming fairness, protection of gamblers, prevention of gambling problems, monitored advertising and marketing of gambling services, limited sports sponsorship, and many others would be ensured as well.
In addition to land-based gambling facilities, online gambling would be legalized and regulated alongside land-based gambling. However, the bill would limit the total number of casino licenses in the whole Ireland island to 40 and each facility would offer 15 or lesser table games. This was to ensure a scanty gaming atmosphere, availability of only small to middle-sized casinos, and prevent an environment similar to Macau in China or Las Vegas in the United States. Additionally, a percentage of gambling tax revenues would be used to fund programmes set up for Irish problem gamblers.
In 2015, the Betting (Amendment) Act was passed. This was to reinforce the licensing and regulation of online bookmakers and betting exchanges. The proposed 2013 Gaming Control Bill would enact taxes on casinos and other gambling facilities while the approved 2015 Betting (Amendment) Act do the same to online bookmakers and betting exchanges.
In 2017, a study commissioned by Mr David Stanton, the Minister of State for Justice, produced a report authored by Dr. Crystal Fulton (University College Dublin) titled the “Developments in the Gambling Area”. The report explained how effective the gambling area would affect the country. It identified fresh laws, policy issues, and technological innovations which were not included in the draft of the 2013 Gaming Control Bill. Accordingly, the Department of Finance, on May 19th, 2017, proposed a detailed review of the tax code of gambling in Ireland.
With all these proposals for a better gambling industry in Ireland, many anticipate the approval of the Gaming Control Bill in 2018. Well, that is a mere anticipation for, in February 2017, the Bill is just a 90-page document in Leinster House, Dublin. Today, casinos are still illegal and there are other limiting rules in Ireland.
For one, Ireland is one of the few territories without a single regulatory body set up for gambling activities and facilities. Therefore, all matters relating to gambling or gaming are directed to a number of government bodies. The Revenue Commissioners is Ireland’s tax control and oversees the licensing of both land-based and online bookmakers and operators of pari-mutuel betting. The Department of Justice and Equality also have its own part to play.
Lastly, in January 2017, Mr David Stanton requested a permit to make another draft of the Bill. The new draft would include a section where an independent regulator will be established for all forms of gambling activities and facilities in Ireland.
As explained above, gambling is complicated in Ireland. Some gambling activities are legal while some are not. Some gambling facilities (casinos as a prime example) are carefully prohibited in Ireland. However, there are many clubs – about 45 – in Ireland with gaming machines and table games, and an environment almost identical to that of a modern casino.
As a destination, Ireland is one of the best places to visit. There are many attractions and many illustrious cities and towns to visit. The gambling atmosphere might not be as pleasant and luxurious as Macau’s but gambling in Ireland is fairly splendid.
Moreover, Irish natives are widely known for being as friendly as possible, so visiting Ireland will not be a mistake. However, gambling in Ireland is mainly impressive in the cities of Dublin, Cork, Dundalk, and Limerick exclusively.
The 45 casinos in Ireland spread throughout Cork, Dublin, Dundalk, Limerick, Wexford, Athy, Carlow, Clarkes Bridge, Clondalkin, Dún Laoghaire, Mallow, Mullingar, Naas, Swords, Tallaght, and Waterford. Meanwhile, most casinos are situated in Cork and Dublin, with the latter emerging as the largest gambling city boasting almost 20 casinos.
The largest casino in Ireland is Amusement City Casino, which offers 250 gaming machines and 10 table games. Emerald Casino – Clondalkin Q’s – equipped with 200 gaming machines, 20 poker tables, and eight table games – is the second largest casino.
Playland Casino Dublin (200 gaming machines), Fitzpatrick’s Casino – Dún Laoghaire (120 gaming machines), Fitzpatrick’s Casino – Limerick (100 gaming machines), Emerald Casino – Eden Quay Dublin 1 (63 gaming machines), Fitzpatrick’s Casino – Dublin (60 gaming machines), and Fitzpatrick’s Casino – Patricks (60 gaming machines) follow respectively. Other casinos are small, with each having less than 20 gaming machines.
Actually, there are no casinos in Ireland. Some add the word ‘casino’ to their name so as to attract foreign visitors. Nevertheless, the majority of private members’ clubs in Ireland are equipped enough to be called casinos. But, most of these clubs do not have hotels like normal casinos. Instead, they are mostly situated near hotels and resorts. Still, some do have hotels – for example, The Westbury Club Casino and Colossus Casinos Sporting Club (Merrion Casino Club).
These clubs offer a wide variety of gaming machines and table games such as electronic roulette, slot machines, Brag Poker, Pot Limit Hold’em, Omaha Hold’em, No Limit Hold’em, Casino Brag, roulette, blackjack, poker, Ultimate Texas Hold’Em, Oasis Poker, Casino Hold’em, 3 Card Poker, Punto Banco, American roulette, Casino Stud poker, 3 Card Brag, 5 Card Poker, Pai Gow Tiles, Baccarat, Caribbean Stud poker, and BritBrag.
Obviously, poker is a famous form of gambling in Ireland. Irish clubs offer a wide variety of poker games and there are many poker tournaments available in Ireland. In fact, Ireland’s native poker tournament is the longest in Europe – with a prize of more than €3 million. Similarly, bingo is popular but more lenient as it is often used for fundraising. There are approximately 10 bingo halls in Ireland.
Pari-mutuel betting is the most popular form of gambling in Ireland. There are more than 16 racetracks for greyhound racing and more than 23 racetracks for horse racing. The love of horse racing, particularly, is linked to the Irish people’s love of horses.
As acknowledged in other European territories, sports betting (excluding greyhound and horse racing) is popular in Ireland. Apparently, football (soccer) is the most popular sport and football matches are widely wagered on in the country. In addition, hurling and Gaelic football betting are extremely popular in Ireland. There are numerous betting outlets in the country, even on small streets. Sports betting is also available online with bookmakers like Paddy Power and Ladbrokes.
The lottery, similarly, is well-known in Ireland. The National Lottery is used for charitable purposes and the revenues generated was mouth-watering. The revenues dropped recently when the cost of a ticket went to €3 from €1.5. Additionally, the Irish law permits any establishment to offer lottery games for a charitable motive, provided the establishment is licensed or permitted by a District Court or a Superintendent of the Irish police force.
Lastly, online gambling is very active in Ireland and completely legal. So, all forms of gambling are available online – but online sports betting is most popular in Ireland.
Below is a list of all casinos currently operating in the regions of Ireland.
Amusement City Casino
Atari Expo – Omni Park Entertainment Center
Atari Expo – Square Town Entertainment Center
Club Oasis Casino
Colossus Casinos Sporting Club (Merrion Casino Club)
Colossus Casino Club
D1 Club Casino
Emerald Casino – Clondalkin Q’s
Emerald Casino – Dundalk
Emerald Casino – Eden Quay Dublin 1
Fitzpatrick’s Casino – Dublin
Fitzpatrick’s Casino – Dún Laoghaire
Fitzpatrick’s Casino – Patricks
Fitzpatrick’s Casino – Tallaght
Fitzpatrick’s Casino – Limerick
Goldrush Casino – Academy
Goldrush Casino – Camden
Goldrush Casino – Carlow
Goldrush Casino – Cornmarket
Goldrush Casino – Leinster
Goldrush Casino – MacCurtain
Goldrush Casino – Mallow
Goldrush Casino – Naas
Goldrush Casino – Rathmines
Goldrush Casino – Tullow
Goldrush Casino – Wexford
Macau Sporting Club Cork
Macau Sporting Club Dublin
Mayfair Casino Club
Ned Kelly’s Sportclub and Casino
Penthouse Casino & Card Club
Playland Casino Dublin
Silks Casino Club
The Bank Casino & Card Club
The Fitzwilliam Casino & Card Club
The Jackpot Card Club
The Sporting Emporium Club
The Westbury Club Casino
Victoria Sporting Club & Casino
Voodoo Card Club
– Gambling in Irish clubs is for people aged at least 18 years in the Republic of Ireland or at least 21 years in Northern Ireland. Football (or soccer) pool betting and purchase of lottery tickets are for those aged 16 or above.
– Gaelic football, football, greyhound racing, hurling, and horse racing are the most popular sports in Ireland and are heavily wagered on.
– 44 percent of Irish adults play online bingo frequently.
– 2 percent of Irish adults gamble online frequently and 12 percent access online bookmakers weekly.
– The Irish Open Poker Tournaments is only second as the world’s longest-running poker tournament of No Limit Texas Hold’em. It is the longest in Europe.
– In 2014, the Irish government sold a 20-year license of the National Lottery to a joint venture, Premier Lotteries Ireland Limited. This was because the lottery was managed poorly and due to financial problems.
– To apply for a gambling license in Ireland, the operator’s owner or representative must provide a “certificate of personal fitness.” The Superintendent of the Irish police force (An Garda Síochána) receives the certificate if the applicant is native to Ireland but if the applicant is an alien, the Department of Justice and Equality receives such certificate. Then, the applicant can approach the Revenue Commissioners for a license.
– Low-stakes games are acknowledged in Ireland and can be offered by funfairs and amusement halls licensed by a Local Court or any other local authority.
– The National Lottery is regulated by the “Office of the Regulator.”
– According to Irish law, any wager less than €0.06 is illegal for licensed bookmakers.
– Per Irish law, a land-based bookmaker must not offer newspapers, non-alcoholic drinks, and fruits. Overcrowding and loitering are highly prohibited as well.
– The many Irish clubs are subjected to VAT (Value-Added Tax) and other usual taxes.
– Lottery prizes are limited since they are only available for charitable purposes.
– If the chances of all players and the operator of a game are not equal, the game is illegal in Ireland. Also, if a percentage of the overall wagers are kept by a gambling operator without respecting the results of the game, such game is illegal. Participating in any of such games is defined as “unlawful gaming.”
– A land-based bookmaker must not offer anything (especially attractions or amenities) apart from its licensed gambling services. This way, bookmakers cannot lure people into gambling.
– Setting up a remote bookmaker or any other betting operator comes with a €10,000 licensing fee. Renewing the license can cost that same amount at its lowest and €500,000 at its maximum. The maximum amount is for operators with an annual turnover of more than €500 million. For remote betting intermediaries, the minimum is €10,000 while the maximum is €20,000 (annual revenue of €200 million or more).
– Land-based, remote and online bookmakers are to pay a 1 percent duty fee.
– According to Irish Tax and Customs, an “amusement machine” is a typical gaming machine but, after each play, the player either gets an opportunity to re-play the game or stand a chance to gain a prize of €7 or less. However, the prize must not be monetary for the prize have to be an item worth €7 or less.
– While players are required to become a member of a particular club before being able to enter, membership is often free in entirety; proof of age and residence are the only requirements sometimes.
– Amusement City Casino, Ireland’s largest casino, was established in 1974.
– In 2006, Irish spent €3.6 billion on land-based gambling. Five years later, the amount went down to €1.6 billion.
– About 40,000 Irish have at least one gambling problem.
– Ireland have hosted the International Poker Open and the European Poker Tournament.
– Dundalk Stadium is the first dual track in Ireland which opened in December 2007 and offers both greyhound racing and horse racing. The bulllilding construction costs approximately €35 million.
– The largest bookmaker in Ireland, Paddy Power, have 119 shops.
– The Irish National Lottery is one of the most expensive lotteries in Europe. To win the jackpot, the player has to pick six accurate numbers out of 45. The lottery can be played online, in land-based outlets, and via a phone call, and available on digital television.
– Arcades, pubs, and cafés provide Reflex machines, which have a payout percentage of about 80 percent because the previous outcome reflects the present outcome.
– Since gambling on offshore websites is allowed, there are approximately 300 gambling websites welcoming Irish players.
– As of 2017, Irish spend over €5 billion on gambling per year. This is an equivalent of €14 million per diem.
– The year 1988 marked the establishment of Paddy Power, a remarkable Irish bookmaker, on August 3rd in Dublin. Paddy Power is a result of bookmakers David Power, Stewart Kenny, and John Corcoran merging about 40 shops together. Today, the bookmaker is very popular throughout the world.