ccording to a report from The Independent newspaper, Martin Cullen revealed that the Government was planning to cease subsidizing the Fund, which meant that Irish bookmakers and offshore gamblers would have to pick up the bill for maintaining the horseracing industry into the future.
A recent emergency budget saw the Fund reduced by just over 1.5 million euros for 2009 despite widespread predictions that it was facing a major cut in the face of the country's worsening economic situation. “It is not sustainable to continue to support this Fund from the Exchequer,” said Cullen.
'The big players will need to come to the plate. A view will need to be formed about Internet and offshore betting. I will use whatever legal levers are available to me to get at that funding in terms of trying to get some tax out of it.'
Industry estimates suggest that between 1.5 and 1.7 billion euros of Irish money is wagered outside of the country every year with the Minister stating that a levy of 0.5 % on online betting would yield over 100 million euros. Cullen wants this tax to pay for Irish horse and dog racing even though only a fraction of the total actually goes on Irish meetings. Online operator Paddy Power recently stated that Irish horseracing accounts for only 16 % of its total.
'The reality is that most betting is now offshore,” said Cullen. “There are choices to be made and I am making it clear to the industry that we will make those choices. The ultimate choice would be to ban it. That approach has been taken in America and perhaps it will be taken in other countries as well. However, I do not want to go down that road. I believe there is a means of taking action.'