Betting in Ireland

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Despite the evolution of betting over the past couple of decades in terms of telephone and internet opportunities, sports betting in Ireland is still largely held back at times by a strict and somewhat controversial regulation that has been in place since 1931.

The Irish Bookmakers Association (IBA) insists that betting shops are not allowed to trade after 6.30pm, outside the months of March-August. The rule has been increasingly brought into question due to the fact that telephone and internet betting is still permitted after 6.30pm within this period.

Consequently, many businesses suffer a great deal of turbulence between the months of August/September, with trade suddenly restricted and turnover reduced. This has been known to create a lot of unemployment post August, making betting shop work very much akin to a seasonal job.

Nevertheless, Irish bookmakers have continued to make giant strides and an impact overseas.

Founded in 1988, Paddy Power is now Ireland’s largest bookmaker and is continually opening new establishments across the Irish Sea, both in London and the North of England.

Despite generally gaining a vast amount of popularity from customers due to the detailed sports books and unique markets they offer, they have also experienced a degree of criticism from the media and betting industry as a whole for a number of controversial business decisions which have included paying out on bets before events have reached a conclusion.

In 2008, the firm came under-fire from a number of disgruntled people associated with Stoke City FC, after they paid out on all bets for the club to be relegated from the Premier League after they lost their opening game of the season.

Nevertheless, their overall tactics and strategy seem to be working, as they near ever closer to breaking up the oligopoly of William Hill, Ladbrokes and Coral within the UK.

The betting preferences of the Irish focus largely on Rugby Union, Gaelic Football and in particular, horse racing.

With 26 racecourses in the country, action takes place almost every day – and there are a number of illustrious, world famous races and meetings which generate a great deal of ante-post interest and investment.

However it was one of Ireland’s least known racecourses, Bellewstown, which played host to one of the most notorious and infamous betting scandals of all time. In June 1975, businessman Barney Curley’s ‘Yellow Sam’ betting coup earned him over £300,000, the equivalent of over £1.5 million in today’s terms.

‘Yellow Sam’ was the name of the horse which Curley purchased and deliberately ran in unfavourable races and conditions in order to gain the horse a false handicap mark in preparation for a pre-targeted race at the Bellewstown track.

A 20/1 outsider on the day, ‘Yellow Sam’ indeed carried the chance of a true certainty – and Curley took advantage.

Having placed associates at various betting shops, large amounts of money were simultaneously staked on the horse – and the information could not reach the on course bookmakers as the track only had one public telephone, which was taken up at the time by another Curley associate that made an impromptu call to a relative, holding up a massive queue of people who were blissfully unaware of the situation.

Despite the scam being very much associated with gambling folklore in Ireland, the country still maintains a positive image in terms of betting and its relationship with sport as a whole.