Game on for Irish gambling regulation in 2023

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Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Moving forward

The promise to overhaul gambling regulation is moving forward with the publication of draft legislation. A bill will be published to establish a new Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland. It is getting on for five years since plans were announced to set up an independent statutory gambling authority in the country. The goal is that the authority will have the power to impose levies on licensed gambling facilities. The government aims for the Gambling Regulatory Authority to be ‘established and operational in 2023’.

There has been much delay

When the idea was initially mooted in 2018, it was hoped that the plans would be fully enacted by the close of that year. However, things have moved slowly since then, and gambling is still regulated from within the Department of Justice. Moreover, it is not only Ireland that has seen delays in changing the law. In the UK, plans to reform their gambling industry have been delayed four times.

Why is it needed?

The Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland will have the power to inspect and monitor license applications closely. They will continue to have a role after licenses are granted to ensure that operators comply with the ongoing legislation.  In other countries, online gambling has come in for scrutiny because of the speed at which the industry has grown. In the UK, for example, operators must signpost players to safe gambling policies and tools available. In addition, the best casinos with deposit methods allow gamblers to set daily or weekly limits.  In Ireland, the proposed levy will be used to create a social gambling fund to provide treatment for problem gamblers.

What’s in the bill?

The Gambling Regulation Bill sets out the framework to create the new independent statutory body. That statutory body will create a robust licensing regime for the gambling sector. In addition, there will be a regulator who will focus on public safety. The regulator’s role will be to ensure that gamblers are protected from harm and maintain a healthy industry sector. Powers will apply to online and in-person gambling. In addition, the regulator will oversee advertising, website and apps for the gambling industry.

The Taoiseach welcomed the news

The Taoiseach Micheál Martin is reported as saying,

“This approval by Cabinet is significant, and the publication of the bill is unquestionably a major milestone. It is an important and necessary piece of legislation, designed to meet the challenges of gambling responsibly in 21st century Ireland”.

He went on to say,

“This long-awaited and much-needed bill takes a responsible approach to balancing the freedom to gamble with the safeguards to protect people from falling prey to addiction. The bill provides a clearer framework for operators and for consumers”.

Regulating a fragmented system

The bill sets out to replace the current fragmented regime. There will be three types of licences that will cover both in-person and online betting. Operators will have to apply for one of the following types of licenses:

  • business to consumer
  • business to business
  • charitable/philanthropic causes

All about reform

James Brown, who is the minister of state for law reform, said,

“Reforming gambling legislation and regulating in Ireland is a key commitment in our programme for government and justice plan”

He said that it had been one of his key priorities as a minister. He was pleased to have gotten the draft legislation to the point it is now so it can be published and enacted.

Focus on responsible gambling

Justice Minister Helen McEntee talked about the responsible gambling elements of the bill, saying,

“As a former minister of mental health and as a local representative, I have seen the damaging impact gambling addiction can have on people and families, particularly on their mental health. At the heart of the bill is the establishment of the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland, an independent body equipped to enforce regulation of the gambling sector. The bill will ensure that the Gambling Regulatory Authority can appropriately, meaningfully and swiftly respond to ongoing and future.”