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Gambling in Ireland is deeply ingrained in their culture and is both completely legal and very popular, and this popularity continues to grow, especially since the internet has provided even more access to it in recent years.
Gambling was wide open in Ireland until 1956, where the country finally came up with a law regulating it at least somewhat, and this resulted in casinos being outlawed in the country. This wasn’t going to stop the Irish people from partaking in casino gambling though, as they quickly took advantage of loopholes in the law to get around it and many gambling clubs sprung up. (1)
These clubs weren’t casinos in the technical sense but they did offer casino gambling, but on a smaller scale to ensure they weren’t considered proper casinos. Some of these establishments are called clubs but some are actually called casinos. These aren’t casinos on the grand scale that you see in other countries but they are indeed casinos in the true sense, where you can play casino games and poker as well at some of them.
So there are 14 such casinos in Ireland, with 8 of them offering live poker. To give you an idea of the scale that we’re talking about, Ireland’s largest casino, the Emerald Casino in Dublin, has 24 tables for table games, 24 gaming machines, and 22 poker tables. (2)
So this is actually a good amount of poker tables but you can see that the size of the operation in total is actually quite small for a modern day casino, which typically would feature hundreds of gaming tables and hundreds of gaming machines although many would not even have this many poker tables.
Poker is pretty popular in Ireland actually although sports betting still is the big kingpin of gambling here and there are a lot of betting shops in Ireland as well as a very active online sports betting market. Paddy Power, the largest land based gaming provider in Ireland, has over 200 betting shops in the country as well as almost that many in the U.K. and they are also have a significant presence in the online market here as well. (3)
If you are partial to live poker though there is a good amount of action here, especially if you live in the Dublin area, but almost all the poker action is situated here, although there is a club in Dundalk with some poker as well, although if you live elsewhere you are going to have to look to other options.
Of course there are plenty of other options and those options consist of playing online, which is very easy to do and extremely convenient as well, and online poker is completely legal to play in Ireland, and it isn’t even regulated as of yet, although the Irish government has been looking to do that and are currently working on a plan to do so.
As opposed to a lot of other places, the taxation rate on gambling in Ireland is extremely low, with only a 2% tax and even then this only applies to sports betting, so this isn’t the case where the government has gotten greedy or seeking to punish gamblers with higher taxes or try to make too much money off this and end up stifling the market too much, leading to less revenue. On the contrary, Ireland isn’t looking to limit anything here, they just are looking to extract a little revenue from all of this.
Online Poker In Ireland
Since the online poker market isn’t regulated right now in Ireland, there isn’t any taxation on it at all, although it’s true that players do pay a tax of sorts as the poker sites they play on do pay tax in the jurisdictions they reside in, and this does end up getting passed down to players in terms of the rake, although it’s not really a substantial amount and the locales of these poker rooms are chosen specifically to limit taxation.
So Ireland’s scheme isn’t looking to do too much here, they are not greedy when it comes to land based gambling taxation and they aren’t looking to be when it comes to online poker as well, and are only proposing a 1% tax on online poker, which seems pretty reasonable.
Of course online poker sites prefer to pay no additional tax at all so they are fighting all of this. The 1% rate is on gross gambling though so it’s not quite as small as it may appear, even though its less than is charged in some other countries.
How this would work is that if a player pays 5% of pots to rake, this would end up bringing the rake rate up to 6% if the entire amount were passed along to them, which is significant but not overly so.
The Irish government has been working on this since 2013, by way of a bill presented to the Irish parliament, and they are still working on it in 2015, and part of the concern here has to do with how this will all fit into the EU rules on free trade and how they have viewed licensing of gambling in other countries. (4)
This new legislation will not seek to segregate Irish players, something that is particularly important when it comes to poker although it really doesn’t make any real difference to other forms of gambling, so they are to be commended for that, and therefore the scheme may end up being workable, and in a country the size of Ireland, a segregated market likely would not work very well at all, since the poker market would not be able to compete with the larger sites and few poker players would therefore want to play on Irish sites.
While some feel that this would be difficult to pull off, we can look to some other countries who have recently put into practice such a scheme and this at least has the appearance of complying with EU regulations, although the whole story on that won’t be told until down the road when we see if these regulatory schemes end up being challenged. The feeling though is that they won’t and therefore it is possible for countries to have non segregated online poker and still be in compliance with the EU.
So what this comes down to for Irish poker players is seeing, at some point, certain online poker sites receiving an Irish license and paying a small tax to the Irish government based upon the bets of their Irish players, but right now there are no such requirements so it’s just business as usual for now.
(3) Paddy Power