knowledge | 20 March 2019 |

Reform of Gambling in Ireland – Significant Developments

The Irish Government has today approved the establishment of a gambling regulatory authority and the publication of the Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill 2019 (the “2019 Bill”), which provides for the long overdue modernisation of the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956.

Gambling Regulatory Authority

The key recommendation of the report of the Inter-Departmental Working Group on the Future Licensing and Regulation of Gambling is establishing the gambling regulatory authority as an independent statutory body under the auspices of the Department of Justice and Equality.

According to the Minister of State with special responsibility for gambling regulation, David Stanton TD: “A modern and effectively regulated gambling environment will ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that gambling will be a safe, fair and entertaining activity for the majority of those who choose to take part in it. We must ensure that it will provide enhanced consumer protection for players while limiting to the greatest extent possible the harmful effects on young people and those who may be susceptible to addiction.

It is intended that the gambling regulatory authority will develop and enforce necessary and appropriate licensing and regulatory measures in respect of all gambling activities, including online, in addition to regulating the industry in respect of protection of vulnerable persons, including age restrictions, staff training, self-exclusion measures and controls on advertising, promotions and sponsorship. 

It is also envisaged that the gambling regulatory authority will allow for the establishment of a Social Fund which will support research, information campaigns and treatment, with the Fund expected to be supported by levies on licensed operators. 

2019 Bill

Government also today approved the publication of the 2019 Bill, which provides for the modernisation of the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956.

It is expected that the 2019 Bill will, among other matters, bring clarity to the permit and licensing approach to small scale, local gaming and lottery activity, update certain stake and prize limits and standardise the minimum gambling age at 18.   

Importantly, the 2019 Bill increases the stake and prize limits to €10 and €750 respectively (from 3c and 50c) for those gaming machines permitted under the conditions of Part III of the Act. These limits have not been increased since 1956.

According to Minister Stanton:  “The amendments to the 1956 Act published today will help the promotors of local gaming and lottery activity, primarily sporting clubs, by bringing much needed clarity to the application process for permits and licences. This is an interim reform measure pending development of comprehensive reform in this area. The issue of underage gambling is one that I am particularly anxious to address. I propose to standardise the age limit for participating in all activities under the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 at 18 years of age. In addition, the Totalisator Act 1929 will be amended to provide for an age limit of 18 years for betting with the Tote.” 

In concluding remarks, Minister Stanton added that: “Gambling activity is of considerable economic impact in Ireland.  The value of the Irish gambling market annually has been estimated as being between €6 billion and €8 billion. The industry is large, growing and evolving from a largely land-based manifestation to an online one. The measures announced today will help ensure the proper licensing and regulation of the many varied forms of gambling available in the State”.

Conclusion

The publication of the Report and the Bill provide clear evidence of the commitment of the Irish Government to the establishment of a modern regulatory framework for gambling activities in Ireland. This commitment should be seen as a positive step by both operators and consumers as the existing laws were outdated and largely not fit for purpose given that they were designed at a time when the legislature did not have within its contemplation the huge changes in technology that would occur in the intervening period, particularly the advent of internet-based gaming.   It will be important that any reform that is implemented strikes a balance between:

  • regulation;
  • protection for consumers and vulnerable persons; and
  • supporting the legitimate growth of the industry with the potential for increased employment, taxes and investment, which that can bring.

This briefing is for general guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for professional advice. Such advice should always be taken before acting on any of the matters discussed.

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