Kavanagh disappointed by funding freeze and no tax increase
Horse Racing Ireland's funding for 2018 will be unchanged and its latest attempt to instigate a hike in betting tax has proved fruitless following finance minister Paschal Donohoe's failure to address the issue when announcing the government's budget plans on Tuesday.
HRI officials have long lobbied for an increase in the one per cent rate of betting duty as a means to bolster the funding it receives from central government on an annual basis. A total of €64 million landed in HRI's coffers for 2017 after a well-flagged increase of nearly €5m was confirmed in last year's budget.
There has been little in the way of similar projections this time, and it was duly confirmed that the contribution that horseracing receives from the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund, which totalled €80m this year, will not vary for 2018.
However, as was epitomised by the recent HRI-commissioned Deloitte report into the economic impact of racing in the country, concerted efforts had been made to finally get the increase in the rate of betting tax over the line.
With approximately €50m raised in revenue via the existing rates of betting duty, which include the one per cent levied on bookmakers' turnover both online and via retail, plus a 15 per cent charge on betting exchanges' commission, the exchequer has been topping up horseracing's kitty to the tune of €14m.
In response to HRI's petitioning, bookmakers have presented the counter-argument to government to retain the status quo, and the exchequer subvention will continue for now.
"It is disappointing, absolutely," HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh said of the decision not to raise the rate, adding that they will continue to lobby for the increase.
"It's something that we have been looking for and will continue to look for. The rate of betting tax is low in Ireland in comparison to other countries, so it's a long-term issue. It's a structural issue as opposed to an annual budgetary issue.
"If you believe something is right, you just keep making the case. There are taxes on sunbeds and sugary drinks and so on, so you just keep pointing out the anomalies in the tax situation with the betting. That's all you can do, and we will continue to do that."
Among the various Brexit measures announced by minister Donohoe was a €300m loan scheme for small and medium sized businesses and the food and agriculture sectors. Kavanagh suggested that is a facility for which some of racing's stakeholders might be eligible.
"That is designed to help business incurring extra costs arising out of Brexit," he said.
"It might provide for interest-free loans or incentivised loans and, while it isn't our main focus, it might be of interest to the various players, as we know the horseracing industry is very exposed by Brexit. Often with these things the devil is in the detail, so we'll be looking into that.
"As things are, our funding is the same, so we'll go back and look at our own budget now for 2018 and go from there."