Irish Lawmaker Challenges Justice Department Over 'Illegal' Online Market

October 6, 2022
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Irish lawmaker Verona Murphy TD has challenged the government on its regulation of online gambling, claiming during a Committee of Public Accounts meeting that despite it being an “illegal activity” it is certified by the Department of Justice.

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Irish lawmaker Verona Murphy TD has challenged the government on its regulation of online gambling, claiming during a Committee of Public Accounts meeting that despite it being an “illegal activity” it is certified by the Department of Justice.

Figures provided to Murphy by the government have led her to claim that “nobody is policing” this activity and stated that a remote bookmaker’s licence should not cover online gambling activities currently available in the country.

The Office of the Revenue Commissioners, which is responsible for Irish tax and customs, requires businesses involved in betting by remote means to hold a Remote Bookmaker’s Licence. These businesses are also liable to pay Betting Duty.

Licensed bookmakers can accept bets online without a Remote Bookmaker’s Licence in certain circumstances; when the online bet is under €250,000 or less than 10 percent of a bookmaker's annual turnover.

Operators are “required to obtain a betting licence, a fitness to practice certificate, and then the gambling or betting licence, as we would call it, is being granted”, Murphy said during the meeting on September 29.

“There is no legislation dealing with e-gaming and we are exposing those taking part in it. Revenue is collecting VAT from outside entities on the basis of money that it is not entitled to collect,” Murphy said.

The politician demanded that the revenue office and the Department of Justice be invited to a Committee of Public Accounts meeting “to explain themselves”.

Brian Stanley, chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, agreed that the best way to address the concern was in an upcoming chapter concerning revenue, VAT, and e-commerce mentioned by the comptroller and auditor general of the committee.

At the time of writing, the Department of Justice had not yet responded to a request for comment on the situation.

Murphy claims that well in excess of €50m has been spent on online gambling in the past three years, an estimate based on figures given by the government following a previous question by her during the Dáil Éireann Debate on taxes in July 2022.

In July, finance minister Paschal Donohoe explained that “while bookmaking and remote betting activities are exempt from VAT, operators in this sector may also be engaged in an activity for which VAT is chargeable”.

People registered to provide remote betting or remote betting intermediary services in Ireland paid a total of €7.9m VAT in 2021, €4.8m in 2020 and €2.4m in 2019, according to the finance minister.

Despite the recent announcement of the hiring of a new CEO designate for the long-awaited independent Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland, Murphy said “she would have nothing to do with this” issue as politicians have not yet seen the contents of the Gambling Regulation Bill, which outlines the framework and legislative basis for the regulator.

Drafting of the Gambling Regulation Bill, which outlines the framework and legislative basis for the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland, is “well underway”, according to the Department of Justice, and its contents should be published in Autumn 2022.

The regulator is also expected to become operational in Autumn 2023.

The funding follows the country’s decision to allocate more than €3.3bn to the justice sector in 2023.

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