Casinos for youIreland is working on its very first gambling regulation bill and the formation of an industry watchdog in a bid to deal with increasing problem gambling concerns effectively. The bill will also address questions of gambling advertising and sponsorships.
Ireland is poised to have a gambling bill and an industry oversight body within the year. Efforts for a more hands-on regulation of Ireland’s gambling industry are gaining traction after the Joint Committee on Justice released a Report on Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of the General Scheme of the Gambling Regulation Bill. The report was written after extensive engagement of key industry stakeholders to make it as informative as possible and act as a baseline for a practical approach.
The industry regulation proposal was tabled after multiple studies revealed that there was a rise in problem gambling cases in Ireland. Yet, there’s no central authority dedicated to handling such issues. Without an ombudsman, as is the case in other gambling-legal jurisdictions globally, it has become more and more challenging to mitigate the effects of compulsive gambling in the country. Mind you, this proposal doesn’t in any way mean that there is no legal framework to govern the industry, but with the rapid evolution of the industry trends, it is definitely time for an update.
The Current Legal Map for Gambling in Ireland
Currently, there are at least four betting and gaming acts that cover gambling, lotteries, and the totalisator in Ireland. However, without a specialized gambling regulatory body, several authorities not necessarily related to gambling have been providing services like issuing personal fitness certificates and gambling licenses to domestic and overseas operators. Such bodies include the Irish Revenue Commissioners, The Department of Justice and Equality, the Irish Police, the Regulator of the National Lottery, the Minister of Finance, and the Central Bank of Ireland.
The gambling bill is meant to be an updated version of all these as it will address things not covered in all the previous regimes. At the beginning of 2022, the Irish government included the General Scheme of the Gambling Regulation Bill from October 2021 on the list of legislation that will be considered a top priority this calendar year.
The Purpose of the Authority
Gambling addiction has been a point of concern for many countries and states, and Ireland has not been spared the effects. As of 2022, reports indicate that Ireland has more than 200,000 problem gamblers, with 45,000 falling in the ‘severe cases’ category.
A 2019 editorial by the Irish Times reported that while about 67% of people gamble, 4 in 10 people in Ireland do it regularly. It also revealed some findings that some gaming operators were inadvertently facilitating underage gambling activities by not conducting any due diligence when selling lottery tickets and the like.
With these statistics in view, the industry watchdog is being created to ensure public safety and regulate both in-person and online gambling operations. The regulatory authority will have the mandate of not only coming up with gambling rules but also enforcing them where necessary. The Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland, as the new national regulator will be called, will also be in charge of the issuance and revocation of gaming licenses. Additionally, it will be tasked with developing safeguards to curb money laundering and terrorist financing activities in the industry.
Ireland’s Top Brass is Backing the Measure
Taoiseach Micheál Martin, who fully supports the implementation of the gambling bill, has stated that gambling addiction should be approached in the same way as smoking addiction – with strict advertising regulations. The Prime Minister, who was responsible for the ban on workplace smoking when he was the Minister of Health, spoke to reporters after a recent controversy over some TDs and senators showing up at Punchestown. The government officials had attended the event, courtesy of the Irish Bookmakers Association.
Regarding the incident, he commented that it may be reflecting a much broader issue and societal complacency. He added that he didn’t believe in witch-hunting individuals. However, Mr. Martin emphasized the need to be aware of the challenges and traumatic impact of gambling addiction on individuals and families.
Other parties that have called for the limitation or ban on gambling ads are the Irish Labour Party, Gaelic Players Association (GPA), and Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). Regarding the appointment of a CEO for the Gambling Regulatory Authority, the Minister of State Justice James Browne said.Quote
“The Public Appointments Service is managing the recruitment in conjunction with an Executive Search Agency…. All eligible candidates are encouraged to apply. Full details of eligibility requirements including citizenship criteria are included in the candidate booklet.”
The Parliament is Ready for Action
The independent gambling authority is set to officially launch in the course of 2023. However, there is a chance for an earlier launch following a call by some in the Ireland parliament to have it running before the end of 2022. A provision of €500,000 was made in the budget for establishing a Gambling Regulatory Authority at the beginning of the year, and the recruitment of a CEO Designate was also kick-started in February.
As Ireland gets ready to have the bill finalized and ratified, the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has raised a few concerns about the ban on free bets. The gambling industry trade body for EU member states highlighted that while the government is seeking ways to prevent triggering avid gamblers, they would indirectly be contributing to the growth of black-market operators. Nonetheless, whether this will be considered as the legislators put together a draft bill is unknown.
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