That Dáil Éireann approves the following Regulations in draft:
Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund Regulations 2020,
copies of which were laid in draft form before Dáil Éireann on the 13th November, 2020.”
An important part of Government policy is to ensure that the horse and greyhound racing industries achieve their maximum potential and, in so doing, contribute to a balanced economic and social development across a wide geographic swathe of the country.
The horse and greyhound racing industries make a significant and valuable contribution to our economy. It is estimated that the thoroughbred industry has an annual economic impact of €1.9 billion, with direct and indirect employment of 29,000 people, while the greyhound sector provides an estimated 12,000 people with economic benefit. The thoroughbred industry, in particular, brings a high level of international blue-chip investment to Ireland.
Government funding, in addition to supporting these key industries, also presents an excellent opportunity to yield a high return for its investment, leading to a flow of income right through the economy. Support for certain strategic industries is important for future economic growth and can provide widespread benefits to our society as well as for our economy.
The Irish equine breeding and racing industry is extremely competitive at a global level. We are the third biggest producer of thoroughbred foals in the world, and estimates place Ireland only behind the USA as the biggest seller of bloodstock by public auction globally.
Successive Governments have acknowledged the importance of these industries and have supported them through legislation and policy initiatives. The support provided by public funds through investment in these industries has enabled Ireland to develop a world-class reputation for excellence in horse racing, greyhound racing and breeding.
The current Covid-19 pandemic poses particular challenges for Horse Racing Ireland, HRI, Rásaíocht Con Éireann, RCÉ, and industries as a whole. The Government plan entitled Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19 does not provide at any of the levels for a return to full commercial operations. This impacts significantly on the finances of HRI and RCÉ, both this year and up to the end of the time span of the plan in June 2021. It is essential, in these circumstances, that the additional Covid-related supports are made available to HRI and RCÉ, reflecting costs incurred in changes to the trading environment.
These industries received financial support from the State through the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund, under section 12 of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act 2001. My Department makes payments from the fund to HRI and RCÉ. In the period from 2001 to date, a total of €1.36 billion has been paid from the fund to the horse and greyhound racing industries, in accordance with the provisions of the Act. The cumulative upper limit on payments from the fund, provided for under the relevant regulations, has therefore been reached.
Exchequer funding provided from the fund is crucial to the survival and continued development of the horse and greyhound racing industries. In order to give effect to the provisions of budget 2021, this cumulative upper limit must be increased by regulation. The Estimates for my Department, passed by both Houses as part of budget 2021, include an allocation of €96 million for the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund.
In order to allow my Department to provide the moneys allocated in budget 2021, it is necessary to comply with a technical requirement to increase the cumulative limit. This is achieved by way of the regulations submitted to the House today.
The 2017 Deloitte report into the economic impact of Irish breeding and racing commissioned by Horse Racing Ireland, HRI, indicates that the total direct and stimulated expenditure of the Irish breeding and racing industry was €1.84 billion in 2016. In addition, it is estimated that there are 15,200 jobs at the core of the racing and breeding industry or in directly related industries. Horse racing generates a very significant return for the rural economy in Ireland and a positive international profile for our country. HRI's 2019 annual report indicated a successful year. The focus on ownership leads to a further increase in the number of horses in training and more horses competing.
With regard to the greyhound racing industry, according to the 2017 Power report, the greyhound industry provides and supports considerable employment both directly and indirectly. It is estimated that the industry supported 5,000 full-time and part-time jobs in the economy in 2016. In addition, there were 7,313 active greyhound owners.
There is a very valid and strong rationale for funding both industries in the way we do and for the increase this year, given the particular pressures Covid has placed on these industries. This will support them in their work.