From bingo to horseracing: the origins and evolution of gambling in Ireland

Ireland has quite the history of gambling, but do you know how it evolved? We have everything you need to know about gambling in Ireland.

Ireland has a proud history of gambling that can be seen in many different ways.

From the huge crowds that turn up to watch horse races to the popularity of card games and bingo, this is something that has become a big part of Irish culture.

Yet, the history of gambling in Ireland and its current situation show that it hasn’t stayed still through the years. Instead, it has evolved to meet the changing demands and laws in the country.

Which Irish casinos are best-established?

Another of the top places for roulette is The Sporting Emporium in Dublin.
Credit: thesportingemporium.com

Casinos here aren’t exactly like those in other countries, as traditional casinos are technically illegal in Ireland under 1956’s Gaming and Lotteries Act.

Instead, the country has over 20 smaller, private member’s clubs where people can play a variety of classic casino games like poker and roulette.

While many of the best casinos are based in Dublin, it is fairly easy to find somewhere to play some games in many other cities across the country.

The following are a few of the longest-running casinos in Ireland. However, one of them has recently had to close.

The Sporting Emporium, 5 Anne’s Lane, Dublin

This well-known gaming establishment opened for business in 2005 and remains one of the capital’s leading casinos.

Games covered here include blackjack, roulette, and poker. It is attractively laid out and is a popular venue for watching big sporting events too.

The Fitzwilliam Casino and Card Club, Merrion Square, Dublin

Unfortunately, this member’s club had to close at the end of 2019, after 16 years, with the loss of almost 80 jobs.

Before then, it had a strong emphasis on poker, and it was located close to attractions such as the National Museum of Ireland and the National Leprechaun Museum.

Macau Sporting Club, 16 St Patrick’s Centre, Cork

Macau Sporting Centre is one of the top places to try some gambling.

One of the best places to play poker away from Dublin, the Macau Sporting Club has a giant poker room as well as a slot selection and a variety of other games.

The Mint Restaurant offers excellent dining opportunities between games.

Caesar’s Palace, 202 Upper Salthill Road, Galway

If you visit Galway to see the great castles, this is one of the best-established places to get a taste of Las Vegas.

Among the main attractions is their bingo hall, which seats up to 200 players. 

Westbury Club, Malahide Village

This casino is located to the north of Dublin, conveniently close to the city’s airport.

It has been doing business for more than three decades and offers games ranging from roulette and poker to snooker and slots.

The history of gambling in Ireland

Bingo has stood the test of time throughout the history of gambling in Ireland.

There is no doubt that the Irish love gambling. In 2019, it was reported that all types of gambling raised around €100 million in taxes.

It isn’t clear when this activity started in Ireland. Still, it is known that horse racing bets were popular among the aristocracy by the 16th century. 

Even before then, there is some evidence that the Curragh hosted chariot races and horse races. The earliest concrete evidence shows us that a Royal Warrant permitted races in Derry in 1603.

Several pieces of legislation have been introduced over the years to control the betting market, leading to changes in the way that bets can be carried out.

A large element of gambling in Ireland is roulette and blackjack tables.

A couple of the most notable among them are 1926’s Betting Act and the 1929 Totalisator Act. 

Other revisions have been made since then, including the Gaming and Lotteries Act in 1956. There are still calls for further legislation to be brought in, to clarify and update the existing laws.

Interestingly, the phrase “luck of the Irish” appears to have originated in the US in the 19th century, rather than in Ireland itself.

Despite this, the phrase later became popular in Ireland and the image of lucky Irish culture has become hugely influential in the worldwide gambling scene, particularly in terms of the many slots machines that use this theme.

How gambling here has evolved

Gambling in Ireland has evolved over the years, from bingo to horseracing.

A look at a couple of the major types of gambling here shows us how the activity has evolved lately. Horse races remain closely linked to the Irish love of betting, and the amount wagered on backing horses has risen in recent years.

A 2019 report from Horse Racing Ireland pointed out that off-course betting duty funds generated that year increased to €95 million.

The major race events held here are the Punchestown Irish National Hunt Festival and the Curragh Irish Derby Festival. One concern in this industry is that of falling crowds at the venues, though.

Card games have been played throughout the entire history of gambling in Ireland.

The Association of Irish Racecourses has revealed that the 26 courses in the country receive around 1.3 million spectators each year.

The 2019 Irish Derby had an attendance of just 12,000, which was a decline of 50% in four years, and a lot less than the 20,000-person crowd expected.

This is a sign of the falling attendances that have worried experts. However, the continuing popularity of betting on races suggests that plenty of people still enjoy the sport at home.

Another essential part of the gambling scene in Ireland is bingo. It isn’t known exactly when this game was first played in the country.

However, it reached its height of popularity in the 1960s and 70s, after the Catholic Church introduced the game to millions of new players.

Bingo is modern and a main element of gambling in Ireland and its history.

During its heyday, many cinemas that had gone out of business were converted into spacious bingo halls. A good example is the historic Cabra Grand building in Dublin. It opened as a 1,600-seat cinema in 1949 and was turned into a bingo hall and concert venue in the 1970s.

Bingo in Ireland has gone through a slump since then, as alternative forms of entertainment caused it to lose customers in the same way that cinemas had suffered a few decades earlier.

This led to the closure of many once-thriving bingo halls.

However, it is flourishing again, thanks to the growing appeal of online bingo games. It is now possible for Irish players to start playing online bingo with a special bonus, such as the deal on 888Ladies that gives a 400% bonus bundle to new players.

This offer applies to different types of games in a variety of bingo rooms, as well as slots games.

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