April 19, 2012

Ladbrokes calls for urgent reform

Ladbrokes has called for urgent reform of the betting sector, saying its further expansion here will be dependent on the Government modernising the industry.

The British bookmaker operates more than 200 shops here and ranks second only to Paddy Power in the Irish market.

Despite aggressive acquisition-led growth in recent years, managing director of the Irish division Joe Lewins said that whether Ladbrokes continues to expand in Ireland or merely consolidates its operations rely on the Government reforming the retail betting market — to allow for such things as touch-screen "in-play" betting terminals and extended opening hours.

Currently, Irish-based betting shops can stay open until 9.30pm in the summer and only as late as the last race of an Irish meeting in the winter. Mr Lewins said that such rules are an impediment to retail operations competing with online traders.

His comments follow the publication of a report showing that Ladbrokes — which has been trading here for 26 years — contributed almost €73m to the Irish economy in 2011, including over €1m on local sponsorship activities, and employed nearly 1,000 staff.

"The 1931 legislation governing the sector isn’t fit to meet the challenges of emerging 21st century technologies, and this is leaving the sector unable to compete on a level playing field," Mr Lewins said.

"The sector in Ireland is at a crossroads and any move by Government to remedy the current difficulties must take a holistic approach to reform. If these concerns are not urgently addressed, the sector will continue to struggle and this will have a negative impact on much-needed exchequer revenue and employment."

On the proposed 1% turnover tax on bookmakers, Ladbrokes agrees with Paddy Power that it is worthwhile, but only if the Government can ensure all players will pay.

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