There has been a big jump in the number of slot machine licences issued by the Revenue Commissioners following a tax crackdown.
New figures from the Department of Finance showed that in 2017 there were 9,612 licences for the controversial gaming machines issued, compared to 6,088 the previous year. That jump in licences has led to a small tax windfall with Revenue collecting €2.7m in excise revenue last year, compared to €1.8m in 2016.
Under the Finance Act 1975, gaming machines, which are made available for play in a public place, must have a valid excise licence, which is issued by Revenue. Where a gaming machine is available for play, without a proper licence displayed, it is liable to forfeiture.
The issue has become controversial in recent times with reports that many machines were being operated without a valid licence.
"In 2017, Revenue started a national compliance project on the gaming and amusement machine sector, which is designed to identify and tackle non-compliance with tax and excise licensing obligations," Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said in response to a parliamentary question on the matter.
"This project is ongoing across all regions and, to date, site visits have been carried out by Revenue officials to 285 separate premises. A range of follow-up actions are being pursued with respect to the tax and licensing issues identified, including seizure of unlicensed gaming machines where necessary."
Up-to-date legislation and regulation of Ireland's gambling and gaming law, is long overdue, according to problem gambling activists and some gaming industry representatives.
Barry Grant, chief executive of Problem Gambling Ireland, noted in a blog post this week that it was the fifth anniversary of the heads of a new gambling control being published, which he said was "a progressive piece of legislation, which has the capacity to revolutionise how the gambling industry in Ireland does its business, how government regulates that business and how government and NGOs prevent and minimise gambling-related harm."
"So, in the intervening period, what progress has been made?" he said. "In a nutshell: none."