People have been gambling since the first man walked out of Africa hundreds of thousands of years ago, but it is only recently with the introduction of legalised gambling that we have seen it take off among the general public. From humble beginnings, at racecourses and sports events, we now see betting shops on every street, and that along with the proliferation of the Internet has led to a massive rise in the industry throughout Ireland.
Establishment of the Industry
Betting on sports has always been a popular pastime for the Irish. The first laws to regulate the industry came in 1956 with the Gaming and Lotteries Act. The laws were introduced to regulate slot machines, betting shops and racecourse betting. The 1956 act has been the main reference point for all gambling in Ireland until the emergence of online gaming, which needed new regulations to monitor all gambling transactions in the country. After the act was passed, there was no real change in the gambling industry until the launch of the National Lottery in 1986 which was set up with the idea to help worthwhile causes and give the responsible adults of the nation a chance of winning big, every week.
The Introduction of Online Gambling
In 2015 the Irish Parliament introduced new regulations to monitor online gambling. Since then, online gambling has flourished with an estimated 12% of all adults using the internet to gamble at some point. The Irish are known for their love of sport, and more importantly, local sports such as Gaelic football and hurling. Therefore it really is not surprising that the most popular form of online gambling is by far Online sports betting.
However, the number of online casinos in Ireland has also grown, providing players with a varied choice of casino and slot games. Although traditional betting shops and trackside stalls are still popular, we expect to see a continued increase in active users playing and betting online throughout the coming years. The online betting arena is highly competitive in Ireland with foreign and local companies able to set up within the country.
Many countries have realised the need for stricter rules for gaming companies and Ireland is no different. There are rules which ministers are looking to pass through parliament that regulates customers behaviour when gambling to help to ensure a thriving industry while keeping a careful eye on compulsive gamblers who may spend too much money on the activity. These rules have seen heavy protests from gamblers but are only designed to stop those who are losing many thousands of Euro every month.
Horse Racing is Still Top
Ireland has been a world leader in horse racing since the establishment of the Irish Grand National in 1870 at Fairyhouse racetrack in County Meath. Many horses that have won the Irish Grand National have gone on to win other major races in the UK and further afield. Today, horse racing is still the most popular sport to place a bet on with millions gambling online every year on Irish and international events.
Ireland has twenty-six race tracks and has an affinity with horse racing as a spectator sport, and it is ingrained in the national character, deep with cultural significance partly due to the rural makeup of the country. There are two types of racing which are popular with gamblers, and these are flat races and hurdles, with flat racing taking the most money annually and the flat racehorses commanding the highest prices when at auction.
Other Popular Sports
As a proud sporting nation, Ireland has many sports that get large attendances every week. Perhaps the one that generates the most conversation among the public is Gaelic Football, which is only played within Ireland. However, they do play against Australian Rules teams with slightly different rules for these games and gambling on the results is a popular pastime for many Irish people. Rugby Union is another popular sport that gets strong support, and we commonly see an Irish team win the European Cup, competing against other large rugby nations such as France and England. Although the Irish football team are highly competitive, the nation’s domestic league does not gain the attendance you might see in other European leagues, but many will still gamble online to support their team.
Sports Betting Sites
The biggest sports betting websites in Ireland are Paddy Power and Boylesports. Paddy Power is a majority stakeholder in Betfair which has helped to give the company an extensive reach not just in Ireland but operating in the UK also. Paddy Power has many customers in Ireland and with the addition of Betfair have become one of the biggest online gambling companies in the UK.
Boylesports is the country’s largest independent bookmaker and is headquartered in Dundalk. The company has had high profile brand ambassadors such as Kevin Kilbane, Stan Collymore and Gordon Elliot. Although these two companies account for the majority of online gambling in the country, we expect to see many others grab a share as the industry continues to grow and thrive among the Irish public.
The Future of Gambling
Although politicians continue to attempt to curtail or regulate the gambling industry in the country, we expect to see a steady rise in online gambling. An Irish adult can play casino games, bet on sporting events and play games to win money all at the touch of a screen. There are many calls to put an end to this, but these are met with protests from people who don’t want a nanny state that controls every facet of our daily lives. Gambling is a big business and will continue to thrive over the coming years as the industry finds more unique and inviting ways that we can gamble a little money with the chance of hitting the jackpot.