The greyhound racing industry in Ireland, once a bold icon of the Irish spirit, is fading as a result of non-stop budget cuts and tax increases. Irish gambling laws have not changed in a way to justify making such sever changes; instead, the Irish government seems to simply be losing their enthusiasm for the national pastime.
Since October of last year, the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund has seen a 13 percent cut in funding. Because half of the industry is government-funded, these budget cuts have impacted the sport considerably. Some say the cuts are justified, and do not mourn the shrinking jackpot prizes that once made Irish greyhound racing famous – gambling, they say, should not be funded by the government.
Naturally, those inside the industry disagree. Instead of fighting for dog racing in Ireland, however, their minds are preoccupied by trying to decide how to reconfigure budgets in light of an additional €7.1m cut in funding that the Irish government has promised to give them in 2010. The industry has called these further funding reductions “savage”.
As a result, many trainers are not renewing their licenses for next year. A recent study showed that for every euro trainers received in prize money during the last decade, at least five times as much was spent on training expenses. A decrease in external support, they say, will cripple the industry.
The general consensus in the government is that the Irish greyhound industry needs to work towards a state in which it operates by itself, without the need for external funding. The industry is changing – in 2008, for example, ten times more betting took place offline than online. Tax revenues from these bets, however, are tilted the other way, with an incredible amount of revenue lost to non-Irish online sportsbooks.
To counter this, the government doubled taxes on off-course betting last year, but the move has done little good. Those within the industry feel that the government should increase their efforts to deal with offshore internet betting sites, which could provide much-needed tax revenue. Internet betting in Ireland is currently available legally, but foreign competition is fierce. Ireland is talking of relaxing their gambling regulations during the coming year – a move that just might save Irish greyhound racing.