Monday, 1 November 2010


By Mick McCloskey

It has recently come to light that the Irish Tax authorities have decided to impose VAT at a rate of 21% on the activities of private members clubs. The country is in dire financial straits and is obviously looking for revenue streams to boost its finances. Under legislation passed in 1956, certain gaming activities such as those carried out in casinos were classified as unlawful gaming. Casinos have been able to sidestep this legislation by operating as private members clubs. The taxman has now formed the view that these private members clubs are liable for VAT payments and, from what I understand, will be looking to backdate these liabilities. The Revenue Commissioners contend that VAT is payable on membership fees, entry fees, fees to take part in a game and the net receipts of gaming. As I understand it, this tax would apply to poker tournament entry fees as well as to the tournament registration fees. It would also apply to bets made on other casino games and to cash game rake or time charges.

If you are a regular reader, you will know that I am always banging on about how good Irish run poker tournaments generally are. A major industry has grown up out of all these Irish events regularly attracting visitors to Ireland from all over the world. The industry directly employs hundreds of people and provides a huge boost to the Irish tourism industry. All this could be ended if this tax is fully implemented. The VAT charge does not apply to other forms of gambling such as bookmaking, bingo or to the government run Tote and National Lottery so would not seem to be a fair tax. Any demands made so far are under appeal so it could be a while before this is all sorted out. An industry group, The Gaming and Leisure Association of Ireland, (GLAI), is actively lobbying the Irish government for an exemption from VAT. If the tax is eventually collected, it could decimate the Irish casino industry and it would make poker tournaments in Ireland totally unfeasible, in my view, as all the major tournaments are held under the auspices of various private members clubs. The timing of all this is a little baffling as the Irish government is currently carrying out a review of the gaming industry with a view to setting up a Gaming Commission, perhaps based on the UK model, which would oversee the legalisation of casino gaming in Ireland. Perhaps the best hope for tournament poker in this country is that this tax is not implemented before the gaming review is complete. Otherwise the whole industry could be killed off before a decision on its future is made and that won’t put much money into the Irish Exchequer. It would actually cost the state and the tourist industry money in the long term.

It might be a good idea for all casino operators and poker promoters in Ireland to support the efforts of the GLAI and be guided by their current experiences in this field. You can find out more about them by visiting their website at


Poker in the Pub has launched Season 3 of this small amateur series. When I say small, I mean the buy in, as over 800 players qualified for the Grand Final in 2009. Next February the league final will take place in the INEC in Killarney with an estimated prize pool of €100,000. For full details of where you can qualify check out



Poker Stars have now announced the schedule for Season 2 of this highly successful poker tour. As previewed in my last column, Cork will be the location for a new stop on the tour. This tournament, with a main event buy in of €500 + 60 and a guarantee of €100,000 will be held at the Rochestown Park hotel from the 19th to 22nd May and replaces the Season 1 venue of Killarney. Cork’s Macau Casino will be involved in the running of this event and will be holding a number of live satellites.

The tour returns to Dublin’s Burlinton Hotel for season 2 from the 8th to 11th September and carries a guarantee of €250,000 for a buy in of €500 + 60

First up though will be the return of the Irish Poker Championship to Galway’s Radisson Hotel. The big change this season is the reduction of the buy in for this major Irish event from €2,000 (reg. included) to €1,000 + 100. A prize pool of €250,000 is guaranteed and the tournament will run from the 2nd to 5th of December. As usual, satellites for all events will be available on Full details of the Season 2 schedule can be found at


The Quay Casino in Wexford has announced details of a poker festival scheduled to run from 3rd to 5th of December. The main event will have a buy in of €500 + 50 with a guaranteed €25,000 prize pool. I’m not sure that clashing with the UKIPT event in Galway is a real good idea but, no doubt, the Quay Casino came up with these dates before Poker Stars had announced theirs. It would not surprise me if the Wexford event were to be rescheduled. I would advise anyone interested in the Wexford tournament to check with the Quay Casino before they make concrete plans.

If you have any news, views or events you can contact me by email to

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