Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The Irish and Their Love of Betting on Horse Racing

One of the fastest-growing online industries globally is online betting and gambling. Ireland is no different, with betting and horse racing being inherently linked with Irish culture and society. Today, Ireland hosts the largest number of horse races per capita within Europe and is one of the leading countries for breeding racehorses globally.

Although sports racing has recently expanded to virtually every sport that exists, horse racing is unique in being intertwined with the development of betting and gambling throughout Irish history. This article will explore the relationship between Irish horse racing and gambling to help explain why both industries are so popular today.


Horse racing has been around for centuries in Ireland. The earliest record of the sport dates back to between 110 BC and 60 BC when it was recorded that chariot races occurred during the reign of Conaire Mór, who was supposedly the High King of Ireland during this period. It is said that these races took place on the Curragh, which is around 2,000 acres of flat open land in the modern-day county of Kildare. Even today, the area of the Curragh is used for some of the largest horse racing events in Ireland such as the Irish Derby. Horse racing continued to be intertwined with early Irish culture, society, and folklore throughout the country’s history.

While there are some limited early records, widespread records of the sport of horse racing, and its relationship with gambling and betting, began to emerge around the 17th century with the British colonization of Ireland. The earliest evidence of modern-day horse racing in Ireland was in 1603 when a royal decree was sent to Derry with permission to host a horse racing event.

Since Ireland was a colony of England at the time, and not part of the official state, gambling rules were significantly laxer, which allowed horse race betting to flourish in the country. Betting on horse racing was so popular in Ireland that even the high society of England indulged in the practice, including supposedly King Charles II in the 17th century!

Modern Horse Racing and Betting

With the establishment of the Irish Free State in the 20th century, it was understood that betting was an important part of Irish society. In 1926, the Irish government introduced legislation that regulated gambling to offer protection to punters, though this did not include sports betting.

The Betting Act of 1962 was introduced in Ireland to prohibit illicit sports bookies from taking bets in Ireland, with bookmakers having to apply for an official license from the Irish State. This important piece of legislation is still in place today to protect Irish gamers, with onsite and online casinos having to apply for official licenses from the Irish or UK government before becoming legal bookmakers.

The introduction of the Internet has changed the landscape of betting within Ireland, with the industry growing exponentially over the past few decades. Irish law has looked to regulate online gambling with legislation such as the Gambling Control Bill being introduced in the 21st century.

With this regulation, only 40 licenses are available to bookmakers across Ireland, and each bookmaker cannot have more than 15 tables. With a bit of research, you can find lists of the horse racing bookmakers in Ireland, which consist of a mixture of companies based in Ireland and the rest of Europe. This regulation helps to protect Irish gamers betting online but has not impeded the growth of the horse racing and gambling industry.

Within Ireland today, the horse racing market is estimated to have a value of roughly £2 billion. This is a growth of 35% compared to 2016 and the growth of the industry is only getting stronger.

Horse racing events are becoming ever more widespread and popular, with over 100,000 people visiting horse racing events at Ireland’s 26 different racetracks in 2022. Horse racing remains the second most popular sport in Ireland after the GAA, though attendance figures have slightly dropped from 2016.

Part of the reason for a fall in attendance figures (beyond COVID-19) has been the rise in online betting. The market value of online betting is projected to reach over €300 million in 2023 and is expected to have an annual growth rate of 4% between 2023 and 2027. With many sites now offering live streams of horse races, many Irish gamers prefer to gamble online from the comfort of their own homes.

Abu Bakar
Abu Bakar
Abubakar is a writer and digital marketing expert. Who has founded multiple blogs and successful businesses in the fields of digital marketing, software development. A full-service digital media agency that partners with clients to boost their business outcomes.


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