Despite experiencing accelerated international expansion across both sides of the Atlantic, Flutter Entertainment remains loyal to its Irish roots, according to UK&I CEO Conor Grant.
In a discussion with The Irish Times, Grant – who is soon departing Flutter after two decades in betting and gaming – stated that Dublin, and the Republic of Ireland as a whole, was “very much the cultural heart” of Flutter’s global business.
No Irish goodbye
A FTSE100 group, Flutter is active in multiple markets via its Paddy Power, Betfair, Sky Bet and Tombola brands, whilst its FanDuel holding has been making inroads in the US.
In its founding market of Ireland, however, the firm has undergone a rollback to some extent, largely due to the impacts of COVID-19 which had a major impact on general retail operations.
“Irish footfall has not bounced back to the same levels that the UK has,” Grant informed the IT, although noting that in terms of employment the firm is more prominent than Microsoft, with a workforce of around 3,000, 1,400 in high-street betting shops.
The firm’s global offices in Dublin’s Clonskeagh area also continue to play an important technological role for the firm, according to Grant, supporting its cross-continental business.
This is particularly the case for risk management and trading, with Flutter’s lead for Britain and Ireland adding: “The capability behind those systems is designed and built here in Dublin.”
Since its foundation in 2020 – when Paddy Power Betfair merged with Canada’s The Stars Group (TSG) – Flutter has, as mentioned previously, seen extensive growth in North America.
In the company’s H1 trading update, North American revenue rose by 50% from £652m in 2021 to £1.1bn – in comparison, UK and Irish income dropped by 4% to £1.09bn.
However, any possibility of the company’s primary base being relocated from Ireland to the US have been dismissed by Grant and Group CEO Peter Jackson, however.
A changing landscape
Flutter’s position in Ireland seems stable for now, as does the Irish legislative framework on gambling, with a new regulatory authority set to be introduced next year under the leadership of senior civil servant Anne Marie Caulfield.
Established by the Interim Gaming and Lotteries Act’, which are-regulated Irish betting for the first time since in 1956, the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland will be ‘extremely powerful’, as outlined by Minister of State for Justice James Browne last year.
Flutter has been publicly welcoming of new regulation in Ireland and of the appointment of Marie Caulfield as chief of the new body, with Grant stating that the firm is a ‘long-standing advocate of evidence-based measures and a ‘well-resourced regulator’.
“This represents clear progress towards the establishment of the Authority, which should have broad powers to respond to the dynamic and fast-paced nature of our industry,” he added.
In a separate discussion with the IT, Grant expressed optimism for the future of Irish betting post-regulation, bringing Irish gambling oversight in-line with the requirements of modern online gambling.
“Ireland has lacked a regulatory framework,” he said. “From our perspective, it’s now a case of let’s make sure that this is well-funded and well-resourced.”
In tandem with forthcoming regulatory changes in both the UK and Ireland – although the former has faced many delays amid the current unstable political landscape – Flutter has moved to strengthen its own responsible gambling frameworks.
This has included a €500/£500 monthly deposit limit for all British and Irish customers under 25 and membership of the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA).
A clash of opinions
However, former executives of Flutter have voiced their criticism of the gambling industry and its practices, with ex-Chief Executive Stewart Kenny informing the IT: “I have seen very little political interest in the issue.”
Kenny and former Flutter Chairman Fintan Drury co-launched the Stop Gambling Harm Now programme in October 2021, have called for increased safer gambling messaging and committed to ‘stemming the growth’ of 24/7 betting.
“It’s not easy to challenge some fundamentals of an industry where you once had a leadership role,” Drury remarked last year.
“It leaves you exposed to the hypocrisy charge but the evidence of a global increase in problem gambling is incontrovertible, so if you understand its source and don’t trust the industry, then it seems important to highlight the problem.”
With the Irish regulator set to begin operations in the new year, according to Minister Browne’s timeframe, it is unclear as of yet whether Grant’s optimism or Kenny and Drury’s scepticism will come out on top.