A Chronicle of the History of Sports Betting in Ireland

Posted 9 months ago in More


Emerald Isle is a slice of the Old Continent famous for its unique folklore, lush green fields, various tasty spirits, stunning landscapes, warm hospitality, and religious heritage. Thus gambling, offline and online, is not among the first few things that most people outside this country associate with it. Yet, this entertainment form has deep roots in the Irish nation and is a pastime enjoyed in this part of Europe for centuries.

Going by available records, the first official betting activities in the Land of Saints and Scholars can get traced back to the beginning of the early 17th century, which was a time when watching horse racing was a super popular hobby for all. However, it must get said that at this time, such competitions did not occur in what many nowadays would consider legit tracks. It was not until the 18th century rolled around that more advanced racing venues got constructed in Ireland, with the first one being Curragh, which is still operational. Naturally, it is easy to assume that at this time, at these establishments, Irish horse racing fanatics dabbled in betting on which horse would cross the finish line first, especially since this was a popular practice in England, where horse breeding laws got passed in the 16th century, with formal meets taking place since the early-1500s.

Of course, as the 19th century came about, horse racing got even more entrenched in Irish culture, and so did wagering on it. As the 20th century closed, various other forms of organized sports began to get a foothold in Ireland, drawing the public’s attention to them and away from racing. Sometime in the late 1800s, Irish football clubs started springing up, and in the 1920s, the Football Association of Ireland got formed in Dublin, quickly making football a favored betting pastime.

The Betting Act of 1926 & the Laws That Followed

In 1926, four years after the establishment of the Irish Free State under the Anglo-Irish Treaty, Ireland’s newly formed government decided it needed to legalize cash betting. Though, it should get mentioned that this was not the first time that regulation on wagering activities had been put in place on Irish soil, as that initially happened in 1853. Nevertheless, the 1926 law was the first time that betting offices would operate under government-issued licenses, a move that sought to eradicate street bookies, helping this sector to transition from an illegal practice to a legitimate business sphere.

Yet, only five years after the passing of the 1926 Betting Act, Ireland’s government recognized the need to bring forward a new law that plugged up the holes of their previous gambling legalization attempt by enforcing new regulations via the Betting Act of 1931, whose rules superseded those of the previous one.

Two years before this occurrence, sponsored by the country’s minister for Finance, the Totalizator Act of 1929 also got passed, trying to put in place control of totalizators, meaning betting at horse and greyhound tracks on their races. Under this law, the government had a monopoly of Tote betting in Ireland through the Tote Ireland company, which began accepting telegram wagers in 1932, dramatically shaping the Irish horse racing and pub scenes, as many residents enjoyed the races on the radio at their local hospitality establishments.

The Modern Irish Betting Landscape

Over the past few years, legal gambling revenues in Ireland have hovered around €5 billion, with most of this cash flow coming from the National Lottery, casino, and betting sites that accept PayPal and debit card deposits. Plus, private gaming clubs.

Yes, Internet gambling is legal in Éire, brought to life in this part of Europe in the past decade. The 1956 Gaming and Lotteries Act officially addressed brick-and-mortar casino gambling in Ireland, banning commercial such venues from operating within the country’s borders. Attempts to change this have been ongoing. However, regarding sports betting and online fun, a new Act was passed in 2015, which tried to bring about policies that affect offshore hubs and sportsbook exchanges to meet Irish tax requirements while also including new standards concerning online licensing in the land, making Irish poker, gaming, betting, bingo, and daily fantasy sports over the Internet allowable.

Legally, horse racing wagering, on the other hand, got updated with a 2001 Act. That law brought about new rules that are still in place and now regulate this industry. Plus, it dissolved the Irish Horse Racing Authority via its 6th section. Hence, with the combo of this law in place and the 2015 one, Irish residents can now wager on horse and greyhound races remotely.


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