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Racing 's relief at small cut to funding in budget; Fall of 1.7 per cent is 'manageable' - HRI.

Byline: Jessica Lamb

IRISH racing yesterday breathed a huge sigh of relief as it prepared to go into the crucial second day of Budget 2012 announcements with just EUR1 million cut from funding for the Horse and Greyhound Racing Board.

On the first day of Ireland's fifth consecutive austerity budget, Brendan Howlin TD, minister for public expenditure and reform, revealed cuts of EUR105m to spending in the department of agriculture, fisheries and food, which funds the HGRB.

Those cuts, however, were last night described as "manageable" for racing, as funding is down less than two per cent, to EUR56.2m, with 80 per cent of that set to go to Horse Racing Ireland and the remainder to the greyhound racing body Bord na gCon.

Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of HRI, said: "Given the level of cuts in social welfare and health one would have to acknowledge that a cut was inevitable in the current climate.

"You have to remember that this is the fifth cut to the fund in four years. But, that said, I think 1.7 per cent is manageable and it does acknowledge the importance of the industry in Ireland, and we've been close to them on that. "It's only part of the picture but it does give us some certainty and allows us to go ahead and frame a budget for next year. We have our next board meeting on Friday week and that's traditionally the meeting where we finalise our budgets."

Today the finance minister Michael Noonan will outline EUR1.6 billion of tax increases and is expected to reveal changes to betting tax, which the industry hopes will include a tax on online and telephone betting. Kavanagh added: "There is still a significant top-up between what the government provides for the fund and what it takes in through betting tax. In the long term that is not sustainable and we've said that all along. We need to find a way where racing is not funded by an annual arbitrary grant." Jim Kavanagh, chairman of the Irish Racehorse Trainers' Association, called the relatively small cut "positive" and, like HRI, urged legislation to provide funding for racing through betting tax. He said: "It [the funding cut] again stresses the need for the government to bring in legislation to tax bets placed online and over the telephone.

It's not satisfactory that we have to wait every year until the budget to see how we can survive as an industry." Plans to do what he outlined are expected in today 's budget announcements. Lowering betting duty from two to one per cent and the migration to online betting has witnessed revenue in the area fall from EUR54m in 2007 to EUR30m today. Raising betting tax has been met with fierce opposition from the retail bookmaking industry and it is hoped Noonan will instead produce legislation to compel those seeking to operate in Ireland to obtain a licence and pay duty on bets placed in the country, as he promised last month. Independent bookmaker Alan Mulholland warned that increasing the tax would be a bad move.

He said: "Any increase in betting tax would bring into question the viability of the retail sector. Not just independents, everyone. "We're fighting an uphill battle against decreased disposable income and that is set to continue with the extra taxes and cuts that from Budget 2012. If they are serious about saving jobs there will be no alteration to the duty." HAVING offered punters free petrol on budget day last year, Betfair will, from 11am today, be giving away 200 Irish-grown noble fir Christmas trees at the site of the former Veterinary College in Dublin's Ballsbridge area, opposite Ballsbridge Motors on Shelbourne Road.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Dec 6, 2011
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