Paddy Power Bookers said it will offer tax free betting to all its customers from May 1, 2002. The decision comes on the back of yesterday's move by Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy to reduce betting tax to 2% next May.

Boyle's Bookmakers also said today that it will absorb the new lower betting tax rate of 2% from May 1. A three-point reduction from the current 5% rate was announced in the Budget yesterday.

Following the completion of the Minister's Budget speech yesterday, Paddy Power conducted an immediate review of the cost implications of subsidising the new level of betting tax.

The company, which trades on the Dublin ISEQ as Power Leisure, said it had taken to move to protect jobs and in the interest of placing the domestic industry on an equal footing with off-shore and UK-based operators.

Boyle's general manager John Maguire welcomed yesterday's move, but hoped it would be the first step towards the phasing out of Irish betting tax over the coming years. Betting tax has been abolished in the UK.