Ireland is home to a thriving betting industry and to some of the most keenly followed sports leagues in Europe. Betting on sport is a popular pastime and a quick check on Match. Center in Ireland, an expert platform that analyses bookmakers, their offers, pros and cons, reveals that Ireland has produced some of the best bookmakers in the European gambling sector.
As with other betting nations, sports betting in Ireland has a distinctive character, defined in part by its close relationship with horse racing and with the unique Gaelic sports that are closely followed throughout the island. In this article, you can find out more about Ireland’s sports betting scene.
Irish Sports Betting Stats
- Irish bettors gambled €9.8 billion in 2019
- 70% of Irish citizens said they’d gambled in 2019
- Horse racing betting accounts for 70% of all sports betting
- Gaelic football makes up 23% of sports bets in Ireland
- Sports betting accounts for 41% of all online gambling
- Ireland ranks third in the world for per-citizen gambling losses
The History of Sports Betting in Ireland
Gambling has been taking place in Ireland for centuries. The earliest written evidence we have for a gambling tradition dates from the time of Conaire Mor, who it is believed was the High King of Ireland at some time between 110 BC and 60 AD. At that time, the main form of gambling was on chariot races, and these were held at the Curragh, which is these days the home of Irish horse breeding.
During the period of English rule, horse racing began to become more popular and by the middle of the eighteenth century, there was an astonishing 409 horse racing locations in Ireland, each of which allowed betting. This was one area of Irish life that the English government took a hands-off approach on, so gambling was almost entirely unregulated across Ireland.
That gambling free-for-all came to an end with the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922. By the middle of the 1920s, the new Irish government had passed a Betting Act that was designed to create a legal gambling industry. This process continued throughout the ensuing decades, with the 1956 Gaming and Lotteries Act and the 1962 Betting Act. It was the 1962 Act that led to the opening up of sports betting across Ireland as bookmakers began to take bets and open markets on a wide range of sports.
Most Popular Betting Sports in Ireland
Betting on sports is enormously popular throughout Ireland but there is no doubt that some sports are more popular than others.
Ireland may be a relatively small nation, but it has led the way in Europe for many years when it comes to horse racing. Although there is also a thriving horse racing sector in the UK, horse racing has become embedded in Irish culture, particularly in rural areas, to a far greater extent.
The result is that Irish trainers, owners and horses are dominant on both sides of the Irish Sea, particularly when it comes to National Hunt racing. For many years, Irish trainers have dominated the Cheltenham Festival, the UK’s premier National Hunt meeting, and the phenomenally successful breeding operation at Ballydoyle has had a similar presence in Flat racing.
There are 26 racecourses in Ireland and around 350 race meetings every year, with many tracks staging both flat and jumps racing. Irish horse racing fans are able to bet at the track, in their local bookmaker’s shop or online, and the betting action for big festivals such as Galway and Punchestown is frenetic.
Gaelic football and hurling are enormously popular in Ireland. Gaelic football combines some of the elements of football and rugby and dates back to 1885, while hurling, in which players use an ash stick to propel a ball through a set of goals, may go back as far as the Bronze Age. Both sports are overseen by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and there are local, county and provincial competitions every year that generate huge interest and millions of Euros in betting revenue.
Ireland has a long tradition of rugby union and the Irish national team, along with the four provincial teams: Ulster, Connacht, Leinster and Munster, have big followings. Much of the rugby betting action is focused on the Six Nations tournament when Ireland take on England, Wales, Scotland, France and Italy, and the cross-European club competitions, including the European Rugby Champions Cup, which has been won by an Irish team on seven occasions since it began in 1995.
Top Bookmakers in Ireland
The long association between sports and betting in Ireland has led to a thriving betting industry and some of Europe’s most popular betting brands have their origins in the country.
Known for their eye-catching and sometimes controversial marketing campaigns, Paddy Power certainly has the highest profile in the Irish bookmaking world. Formed in 1988 when a group of retail sports betting operators came together, Paddy Power has become a giant of the European sports betting sector, and is closely associated with Irish racing, sponsoring many major races.
BoyleSports have become the main rival to Paddy Power, both in Ireland and the UK though the company was founded earlier, in 1982, by John Boyle. Over the years, the business has grown to be popular on both sides of the Irish Sea, and as well as horse racing, BoyleSports is known for the quality of its wider sports betting markets, particularly on rugby and football.
The development of the online sports betting sector has led to a rapid growth in the number of betting operators worldwide and in Ireland, one of the most successful of the new breed of bookmakers is Quinnbet, which was launched in 2017. Quinnbet has been able to challenge Paddy Power and Boylesports by focusing on a 21st century approach to sports betting, including a range of innovative customer tools and features, while also providing a popular and easy to use betting site.