Bookies forced to reinvent shops to halt €1bn decline
Irish betting shops will have to reinvent themselves as "entertainment centres" or else shrivel in the shadow of the huge online gambling industry .
Bookmaking shops in Ireland have lost more than €1bn in revenue since 2008, more than 30pc of their total revenue.
Turnover has dropped from €3.7bn to €2.6bn in a seven-year period, and almost 500 shops have shut their doors.
The advent of smartphone and gambling technology has led to less demand and footfall for bookmakers premises, with gamblers enjoying anonymity and convenience at home.
But the Irish Bookmakers Association (IBA) believes that the industry can reinvent itself with a cafe model.
Sharon Byrne of the IBA said: "The comfortable superstores [large chains] will become leisure centres as opposed to just betting shops.
"I can see the betting shops becoming entertainment centres instead and that will be in an effort to compete with the online aspect," she added.
In total, licensed betting shops have lost more than half of their share in Irish betting market since 1999 - with the influx of web and phone-based gambling taking control of the market.
The overall share has fallen from 91pc at the beginning of the millennium, to just over 40pc at the end of last year.
Meanwhile, the online aspect of the gambling industry is doing big business in Ireland.
When Paddy Power and UK-based Betfair merged earlier this year, they created a €10bn company that is now a global online gambling Goliath.
Most people know Paddy Power from its high street shops and often cheeky marketing, but for the Dublin-based Paddy Power Betfair group, its real growth engine is online betting.
As a standalone entity, total online activity at Paddy Power generated net revenue of €707m last year. Of that, €166m was generated from online gaming and other revenue.
It's a hefty chunk of turnover that will undoubtedly continue to rise as Paddy Power Betfair intensifies efforts to encourage more of its customers who already use its website for more traditional betting to use its gaming platform too.
German research group Statista last year reckoned that the global online gaming market would be worth $41.4bn (€36.1bn) by the end of 2015.
Plenty of companies want a slice of that lucrative pie, and are attracted to Ireland, often for tax reasons.