Government support for the horse and greyhound racing industries is provided under the horse and greyhound racing fund which was established under the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act 2001 for the purpose of further developing both racing industries. Under the provisions of the 2001 Act, the fund receives a guaranteed level of finance based on excise duty on off-course betting in the preceding year subject to a minimum level based on the 2000 amount adjusted for inflation. Any shortfall in the amount generated by the excise duty is made up by direct Exchequer subvention. In 2004 the Government agreed to increase the aggregate limit on the fund from €254 million to €550 million to allow for continuation of the fund for a further four-year period to 2008. Since 2001 the fund has provided a guaranteed level of funding for Horse Racing Ireland which will have amounted to more than €436 million by the end of 2008.
In 2008 Horse Racing Ireland, HRI, is to receive more than €61 million from the fund.
Since the establishment of the fund a major period of development of the horse racing industry has resulted. The funding has allowed Ireland to develop into a world centre of excellence for horse racing. Horse Racing Ireland has undertaken a capital investment programme that has underpinned growth in the sector.
In 2004, HRI launched a €250 million capital development fund for Irish racecourses, which is being spent over five years, to continue the substantial upgrading of racecourses. HRI will provide up to €135 million in grant aid and the racecourses will finance the balance from their own resources.
The allocation of €70 million under the new national development plan for capital investment for the horse and greyhound racing industries will assist long-term planning, which will result in the further development of a network of modern well-managed facilities that will continue to be attractive to the public.
To date, the fund not only has helped towards providing some top class racing venues and facilities but also has underpinned significant employment in the horse racing industry. The prize money it has facilitated has been an important boost for horse breeding, which is a significant net contributor to the economy and has an important role to play in generating employment, particularly in the tourism and agri-economy sectors, making it a significant regional employer and an important contributor to rural communities.
The current round of the fund is due to expire at the end of 2008. A review of the horse and greyhound racing fund will be undertaken this year and any extension of the fund will require the approval of the Government and the Oireachtas.