According to Irish gambling laws (specifically, a piece of legislation from 1956), most casino-style gambling is illegal throughout the country. For many years, however, Irish “casinos” have sidestepped this legislation by operating as private members’ clubs, which allows them to provide all the gambling services that players could ever want, all without breaking any laws.
There are currently more than 50 of these gambling clubs across the country, and most are fairly new, having opened their doors sometime in the last decade. Unfortunately, this boom is now going bust, with many clubs showing a massive drop in profits, some as high as 30% over last year. The latest club to close up shop is the Silks Casino Club in downtown Dublin. Once a hotspot for local celebrities, the club was pronounced dead just a few days ago.
While the recent economic downturn is partially to blame for these closures, a lot of it comes down to a recent decision by the Irish government regarding the taxation of these clubs. While other forms of legal gambling in Ireland such as sportsbook operations are VAT exempt, casino clubs are now expected to pay a 21% tax. This VAT is payable on membership fees, entry fees, fees to take part in a game, and the net receipts from gaming. Many of Ireland’s gambling clubs have lodged complaints about the rule with the Appeals Commissioner, but the changes of seeing the decision reversed are slim.
Meanwhile, online casinos in Ireland are faring much better. Regulation and taxation of internet gambling is still being worked out. Internet gambling in the country was legalized in 2003, but complete rules governing online gambling in the country have yet to be worked out. Most of what needs to be done is to set up a licensing scheme to regulate foreign gambling groups that offer internet gambling in Ireland, especially since many “Irish” gambling sites are in fact hosted in offshore tax havens.