Seven independent bookmakers have joined forces online to compete with rival chain operators for a slice of the €1.5bn internet gambling trade, it was revealed today.
Directors of new site BetPack.com said it is hoped the project will safeguard the jobs of 500 betting shop staff around the country.
BetPack spokesman Jimmy Finlay said it was one of the biggest ever developments in Irish bookmaking.
"We were losing approximately 25% of earnings to online betting once we closed our shops in the evening and now we can develop a relationship with our customers both over the counter and through the website," he said.
"It is a boost to every bookmaker involved as this will now help safeguard the jobs of our staff while also helping to engage with more customers online."
The investment, which has created eight jobs, has been formed by Bambury Bookmakers, Hackett's, Mulholland's, Terry Rogers, Toolan Bookmakers, Track Bookmakers and Tully's. Together the group operates 180 betting shops nationwide.
It aims to take in €200m on online bets in the first year - recouping the money they claim they are losing over the internet to high-profile competitors.
It is estimated €3.2bn is laid in betting shops in Ireland every year with up to €1.5bn online through sports bets, casino, poker and bingo business.
Mr Finlay said the increased online competition will create a level playing field for independent traders to compete with big international firms.
Directors also hope more independent bookmakers will join the online venture in the coming months.
"Since we went online with BetPack, even before we were officially launched and the news got around the bookmaking circuit, we have had inquiries every day from bookmakers looking to get involved," Mr Finlay said.