Ireland has been slow to open up to the gambling craze all over the world. However slow as it has been, Irish casinos have been thriving successfully.
In the last several decades, gambling has become very popular in England and Scotland. In Ireland however, the gambling craze has only begun a few years ago. Even though gambling is relatively new in Ireland, in the first year of the establishment of a land casino, the Irish spent 1.6 Billion Euros. This was back in 2001. Things have changed now and the money spent on gambling has more than tripled. This is money spent only in land casinos in Ireland.
There are several gambling options in Ireland, of which casinos are the newest. People of Ireland are more used to sports betting and betting on horse and dog tracks. Bingo, poker and lotteries, which have become popular with the setting up of land casinos in Ireland, have been the last to become popular.
The casinos in Ireland are governed by the Gaming and Lotteries Act of 1956. Since the concept of gambling itself is rather new to Ireland, the need to regular land casinos was never felt. However, according to this outdated law, casino gambling still remains illegal in Ireland. An alternative to that has been the setting of private, members-only clubs where gambling activities are performed legally. Though this caveat in the gambling laws has allowed land casinos to stay open, it has largely kept major gambling establishments and casinos from opening up in the country.
To further make casinos a success in Ireland, the government does not tax the winnings of gambling in the casinos. These casinos, which call themselves ‘player-clubs’ are in fact private and a interested player has to apply for membership before being able to play in it. While applying, the applicant has to provide both age and residence proof. To apply, a person must be a resident of Ireland and must be above 21 years of age. Though these clubs are private, the membership approval is given by the Gaming and Leisure Association of Ireland.
Though these casinos are operational and offer a variety of gambling activities in their confines, they are very different from the traditional land casinos encountered in Europe and North America. In Irish casinos, food and alcohol are usually not served. Another distinct difference is that though in most land based casinos all over the world, live events and entertainment form a major part of the land casino experience, the same is not true for land casinos in Ireland.
In Northern Ireland, which is still a part of the Great Britain, gambling was legalized in 1985 by the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements Order. In Northern Ireland, there is a seeming reluctance by businessmen to open private gambling clubs or land casinos, even though they are legally allowed to function.
The precedence was set when the first gambling establishment, a Poker Room in Belfast, was raided by police, even though it was legal and operating within the laws. A lot of clients and almost the entire staff were arrested. This has deterred more such clubs from opening up in Northern Ireland, thus making Dublin in the Republic of Ireland, the land casino capital of Ireland. While in Republic of Ireland, the legal gambling age is 21, in Northern Ireland, it is 18. It is not legal to make any betting with children under the age of 18. However, the legal age for football pool betting is much lower, at 16. For the purchase of lottery tickets also, it is mandatory for a child to be at least 16 years of age.
Most of the land casinos in Ireland are located in Dublin. There are more than 10 casinos, or player clubs in Dublin itself.
The laws of gambling do not apply to games of poker, since in this game, the promoters of the casino do not keep any portion of the pot. The game continues to grow in popularity and Ireland recently hosted the International Poker Tournament. The Irish Open, a special worldwide poker event is one of the largest poker events in Europe. The prize pool of this tournament is 3 Million Euros. In Ireland, there are specific poker clubs which only offer poker as the gambling activity, due to the popularity of the game.
Bingo is another popular land casino game in Ireland. Just like the rest of Europe, Bingo, often touted as a lady’s game, is extremely popular in Ireland as well. Bingo events are regularly held not only as socializing events but also as gambling or fundraising events. There are several Bingo halls all over Ireland where traditional Bingo is played like in any other part of the world.
Currently, it is estimated that there are about 25 land casinos in Ireland, which have been operational under the outdated gambling laws of Ireland. These casinos are considered normal business and are subjected to the normal taxes levied on any other commercial activity. They are also not yet subjected to any gambling duty or entertainment tax.
In this decade, there has been a considerable shift in the mindset of casino enthusiasts in Ireland. There are many Irish players who have turned towards the online casino industries. Most of these online casino companies are based outside Ireland since there are no specific laws regarding online casinos in Ireland. The first online casino aimed at the population of Ireland was opened up in 2003 and the first bookmaking website was launched in 2004.
There are talks of regulating the Irish casino industry. Both land casinos in Ireland and the online casinos which are hosted in different parts of the world are eagerly anticipating the outcomes of the various discussions on this front.