As many as 8,000 jobs and potentially more could be created in Ireland by online casino companies if crucial legislation regulating online gaming is passed at the end of March.
Sources say politicians are on the cusp of voting in long-awaited legislation that would create a regulatory system that would be instrumental in attracting such firms.
According to a report by DKM Consultants, if Ireland were to put in place the right legal regulatory infrastructure, it could attract businesses that would create employment and drive tax revenue to the Exchequer.
Potential jobs from global online casino business
If Ireland were to capture just 5pc of the global online casino business, it would represent a local sector worth €2.2bn and generate 5,000-8,000 jobs with an average salary of €40,000 per annum.
Many of these jobs would be for internet experts, accountants and analysts. Such an industry would also have important knock-on effects in terms of demand for telecoms, data centres and energy services, not to mention local spending in the economy.
But so far Ireland has failed to act and amend a dated 1956 Gaming and Lotteries Act which would open the doors to a thriving industry.
David Hickson, director of the Gaming and Leisure Association as well as managing director of the Fitzwilliam Card Club, says the problem until now has been getting various cabinet ministers to sign off on the legislation.
Hickson says the timing is vital.
Countries such as France and Spain already see the potential and as well as legislation are preparing low-tax regimes to attract investment.
Pocket Kings and Paddy Power investments
He points to the 600-job investment by Pocket Kings in Cherrywood, Dublin, which serves the global Full Tilt Poker website, as well as the 250-job investment by Paddy Power in November as examples of what’s possible.
Hickson says that the regulatory aspect is vital. Many of these businesses are sophisticated e-commerce ventures that could provide gainful employment to financial analysts, e-commerce experts and web developers.
“They will only operate in an environment that is regulated and licensed because they do not want to jeopardise their existing licences.”
A competitive tax rate would be vital along with regulation. “Other countries realise the opportunity. France has introduced a gaming tax rate of 7.5pc, the UK 15pc, but it is seeking to change that. To be realistic Ireland would need to aim for a specific gaming duty of between 2pc and 3pc.”
Hickson says that at least 6,000 new jobs could be created in Ireland if 10 firms like Pocket Kings chose to locate here. “Malta has already attracted 19 such companies so the race is on.”
The problem until now has been turning Ireland into a regulated jurisdiction attractive for investment.
Unfortunately, perceptions around gambling and betting have delayed matters. “The problem until now has been lack of cross-party support. This decision – the passing of legislation – is not about gambling, it impacts on where operators set up their houses.
“France is doing it, Spain is working on it and the UK is waiting on a new Finance Act. The international language of gambling is English and Ireland has an advantage.
“We are truly on the brink of something huge here,” Hickson says.
By John Kennedy