The truism that there’s no such thing as a poor bookie was sorely tested last week with the demise of Celtic Bookmakers, which went bust with debts of €6m. According to a report in The Sunday Business Post, former government minister Ivan Yates’ operation is unlikely to be the last chain to fail in a shrinking economy awash with betting shops.
The figures are astonishing. Industry estimates show the number of betting shops increased by more than 50% between 2000 and 2007 – from around 800 to 1,250. Even now, with the decline of spending power over the past couple of years, there are still around 1,100 – probably way too many.
“The crux of it is that the Irish market is shrinking,” said Paddy Power, spokesman for Paddy Power, the biggest chain in the market with 205 shops. “A huge number of betting shops opened during the Celtic Tiger years and it could turn out that too many opened. A lot of guys wouldn’t have done it if they had known the way the market was going to shrink … People have less money to spend – the guys that used to bet €50 are now betting €20.”
Power told the newspaper the company’s Irish business was down by 30% over the past two years but it has been insulated by its international operations in the UK and Australia.
Others are unlikely to be so lucky.