Horse Racing Ireland warns on rising costs, Brexit and funding shortfall

Additional funding needed to deal with ‘integrity’ costs amid ongoing doping controversy, says organisation

The horse-racing industry warned it is being hammered by rising insurance costs along with Brexit and an end to the “seamless” movement of horses between Ireland and the UK.

In a funding plea to the Department of Agriculture, Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) also called for an increase in the betting tax saying the existing rate was one of the “lowest in the world”.

In addition, HRI said it would need additional funding to deal with “integrity” costs amid ongoing controversy over doping in the sport.

Prize money

In a letter to Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue in advance of last year’s budget, HRI said prize money levels here had been deteriorating.


HRI said competitors within Europe now had prizes “significantly ahead of Ireland” with a knock-on effect on ownership levels here.

It said Brexit had caused “considerable logistical and financial issues” that had created extra costs, more paperwork, and much greater planning around bringing horses between Ireland and the UK.

HRI also warned that insurance had become a major issue with challenges in getting policies in the first place. “Whilst HRI has stepped in to provide financial support in the short term, it is not sustainable to cover off this impact longer term,” the letter noted.

The impact of rising prices for fuel, feed, supplies as well as “significant wage pressures” could not be underestimated and needed to be factored into funding plans for the horse racing sector, said HRI.

It asked for between €500,000 and €1 million to cover investment in veterinary and equine forensic units to tackle doping in the sport. “The integrity of our industry is dependent on closing out these issues, ensuring we can demonstrate that best-in-class integrity is sustained.”

In the letter, HRI chairman Nicky Hartery also called for an increase in the taxes that apply to gambling firms.

“The rate of taxation on betting in Ireland remains amongst the lowest in the world and there is scope to further increase the yield to the exchequer from betting duty funds,” he said.

In a second letter to the Minister last September, Mr Hartery explained how the industry had been further hit by a wave of inflation from the war in Ukraine.

Reduced attendance

He warned there was a real concern some would not survive and that ownership levels were very likely to be hit. His letter said point-to-point racing had been particularly hard hit with sky-high insurance costs and rising bills for transport and maintenance.

Racecourses were also likely to see reduced attendance at the same time as rising costs, including a 50 per cent increase in their energy costs.

HRI had originally refused to release the records saying they were exempt based on the confidentiality of records intended for Cabinet meetings.

However, following an appeal to the Information Commissioner, it was ordered to release them under Freedom of Information laws.

Asked about the records, HRI said they had nothing further to add.