Rising up against last week's doubling of betting tax, Ireland's bookmakers have launched a new ad campaign aimed at higlighting the personal effects of Budget 2019.
The Irish minister for finance Paschal Donohoe revealed last Tuesday that a tax on bookmakers turnover would be increased from 1% to 2% from January 1, 2019, and that duty on exhanges commissions would rise from 15% to 25%.
This immediately hit Paddy PowerBetfair as shares fell by 5%, the giant stating to shareholders that if the increased rates had applied to its revenues this year up to June 30, it would have paid an extra €23million in betting tax.
However, the Irish Bookmakers' Association's chief concerns lie with SME's, particularly rural independent bookmakers without a portfolio of betting shops, and without an online presence.
Sharon Byrne, head of the IBA, stresses that the 100% rise in betting tax is 'simply a tax on jobs', and that the mechanics of it need to be highlighted to garner public support.
"The point most people dont understand is that this tax is paid by bookmakers, regardless of profit or losses, and it cannot be passed on to the punter," said Sharon Byrne, head of the IBA.
"So it isnt like the VAT where businesses can just increase the price of their product. It's a real hit to the bottom line which was already less than 1%, so a further 1% just plunges them in to a negative figure and their auditors won't allow them to trade insolvently."
She added: "They couldn't. Banks wont fund them, because there's no possibility of survival."
With up to 400 shops facing closure and 2,000 jobs at risk, Byrne held crisis talks with her members on Friday to unify bookmakers against the government's decision, and rally towards an attempt at reversing the hikes.
Online, the IBA has launched a website - saveourjobs.ie - housing a petition for members of the public to sign, and on the ground an ad campaign is aiming to raise awareness of what betting tax increases mean for Irish jobs.
"The posters have been finalised this morning, ad the media campaign has started," said Byrne. "We contacted all the regional newspapers yesterday, and will begin speaking to news stations and radio today.
"We have people who have been working for 30-40 years in these shops. and if the shop closes, there's nothing else in most of these towns - small, rural towns. It's causing devastation at a personal level."
"All members have started our grass roots campaign, going to their local constituency offices. Staff are going to their constituency offices too, telling their personal stories."
The IBA is not looking for a complete reversal from the Irish government, rather that it simply returns to its own report, published by the Department of Finance's tax strategy group at the behest of Minister Donohoe last year.
"Their recommendations were that the turnover tax is particularly penal on smaller operators, and that a gross profits tax - similar to that applied in the UK and online - would be much more suitable, at the right level."
She added: "We are asking the government to consider the findings in that report, because doubling it is a regressive, knee-jerk reaction that is going to do more harm than good."
It is estimated that the increased taxes on bookmakers will generate an additional €40million up to October next year, and €52million to December 31. But those estimates assume all bookmakers will continue to have a turnover to be taxed.
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