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Dublin: 12°C Monday 26 July 2021

Fancy a late flutter? Betting shops could be open until 10pm by Christmas

Bookies claim that outdated legislation forcing them to close early is putting hundreds of people out of work each winter.

Michael Noonan places a bet on Fine Gael's Helen McEntee during the Meath East by-election.
Michael Noonan places a bet on Fine Gael's Helen McEntee during the Meath East by-election.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

BOOKMAKERS ARE MAKING plans for an extension of their opening hours over the next few months.

A provision to allow betting shops stay open until 10pm in the winter has been added, in an amendment, to the the Finance Bill.

Under current legislation dating back to 1931, they must close by 6.30pm between September and March — but are allowed stay open late in the summer months.

“This is costing us jobs. We have to let 600 staff go on the first of September each year, right until 31 March,” Chairperson of the Irish Bookmakers Association Sharon Byrne said.

Once these changes come in, it will be a huge benefit in terms of employment — because a lot of the people who fill these part time roles might be in college, so they’ll be delighted they’ll now be able to get some money together in the run-up to next Christmas.

The measure is due to be discussed by a Dáil committee next week, but Byrne said they had had “no resistance” to it, since they started lobbying for the change seven years ago.

The change in opening hours was initially included in the Betting Amendment Bill, which has been held up in Europe. It’s now being added to the Finance Bill as a way of fast-tracking the measure.

“All of the bookmakers are budgeting for this to come in around Christmas, if not before,” Byrne said.

It will mean we can now open on Easter Sunday too, which is one of the busiest racing days of the year.

“This legislation dates back to a time long before our current online and telephone-based betting systems were envisaged which have meant that betting options are available 24 hours to customers who are looking for them,” Fine Gael TD Martin Heydon said.

“This change should also lead to an increase in betting duty — as online and remote betting providers remain outside of the betting duty regime until the enactment of the Betting Amendment Bill.”

Groups who work with addicts have warned of the dangers of making gambling more accessible. Dr Fiona Weldon of the Rutland Centre said she would not be in favour of the move.

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