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Irish push ahead with ring reforms.

REFORM of betting rings in Ireland, in line with radical changes in Britain last year, is expected to be in place for October 1.

The upheaval is being pushed more quickly than expected by Joe Walsh, the Minister for Agriculture, following the abolition of on-course betting tax.

Walsh met Irish on-course bookmakers earlier in the year and told them he wanted prices marked up 15 minutes before the off, and winning punters paid out immediately after the 'winner all right' announcement.

Other proposals include a notice on bookmakers' boards stating the maximum liability a bookmaker is prepared to accept on any one bet, similar to the system in Britain.

Walsh said: "Now that the government has given some very generous concessions on tax, we want a reciprocal concession from the bookmakers. I want the ring to be more punter-friendly. But December is too late. I will make sure it is up and running by the beginning of next month."

Such reforms were introduced in Britain last year by the Levy Board, which intervened to end years of often-troubled negotiations between the bookmakers and racecourses.

The most influential change in Britain has been the ability to buy and sell pitches. The resulting new blood has helped to depress margins, to the benefit of punters but detriment of off-course bookmakers, such as Ladbrokes, who blame a profit fall on lower margins.

Francis Hyland, chairman of the Irish National Bookmakers' Association, said his members broadly agreed with Walsh.

He said: "The minister wants this introduced and the bookies are happy to go along with it. Indeed, we have been working on it ourselves.

"Also bookmakers now operate the same terms with each-way bets as they do in the shops. But we think a requirement to have prices up by the time the horses leave the parade ring is more realistic.

"However, if it is to work, more interest will have to be shown in the ring by the Irish Horseracing Authority and they will have to police it."

Walsh responded: "I will speak to the IHA and I will get them to provide a person to police the code of practice-and I will have it done so that it starts on October 1."
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Clower, Michael
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Sep 7, 1999
Words:370
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