knowledge | 1 December 2020 |

The Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Act 2019

1. Key Summary

The Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Act 2019 (the “2019 Act”) came into force today (1 December 2020), amending the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956-2013 (the “1956 Act”).

The main purposes of the 2019 Act are to:

  • Streamline and modernise the application process for gaming permits and lottery permits and licences for smaller scale, local gaming and lottery activity.
  • Protect underage people by standardising the minimum age for all licensed gambling at 18 years of age, including for betting on the Tote.
  • Ensure more proceeds from lotteries goes to charitable causes.
  • Update the stake and prize limits for licensed gaming machines, with a provision for the Minister to amend the amounts by regulation.
  • Serve an important public interest in assisting the better promotion of gaming and lotteries and enhance consumer protection.

Making the announcement, the Minister of State with special responsibility for gambling regulation, James Browne, T.D., said:

“Gambling is a large and evolving industry. It must be the subject of a modern, sensible and effective licensing and regulatory approach. My Department is now engaged in the drafting of a General Scheme of a new Bill to provide for that comprehensive reform.

“I was also pleased to secure “seed funding” of €200,000 for the new Regulator as part of the Justice allocation in Budget 2021”.

Some of the significant changes are set out below.

2. Lotteries

A number of new licensing pathways for lotteries have been introduced by the 2019 Act, including the following:

Lotteries for charitable or philanthropic purposes

Provided that certain conditions are met, certain lotteries that are held for charitable or philanthropic purposes will not require any form of permit/licence from 1 December 2020. The conditions that must be satisfied are:

  1. the total value of the prizes is not more than €1,000;
  2. the price of each ticket is not more than €5;
  3. the maximum number of tickets sold is not more than 1,500;
  4. the lottery is conducted for the benefit of a charitable or philanthropic purpose; and
  5. the promoter of the lottery derives no personal profit from the lottery and has not conducted such a lottery during the preceding 3 months.

Lotteries held in conjunction with the marketing of a particular product

Provided that certain conditions are met, certain lotteries that are held in conjunction with the promotion of a particular product will not require any form of permit/licence from 1 December 2020. The conditions that must be satisfied are:

  1. the total value of the prizes is not more than €2,500; and
  2. there is no charge for taking part in the lottery other than the purchase of the product concerned (if such is required) and there is no additional charge for the redemption of a prize.

Promoters of such competitions should note that the prohibition on additional charges for the redemption of a prize may prohibit requiring partakers to post slips in order to be included in the draw. The use of online codes may be a viable option here.

Lotteries where the total value of the prizes is not more than €5,000 – lottery permits

An application for a lottery permit must be made to a Superintendent of An Garda Síochána for the district in which the applicant ordinarily resides, or if a company, its principal office or place of business. At least 60 days’ notice must be provided in advance of the first day on which the lottery will be promoted.  The following conditions attach to a lottery permit:

  1. the value of each prize shall be stated on every ticket or coupon or, where the lottery is conducted in a premises, such information shall be prominently displayed at the normal means of access to the premises proposed to be used;
  2. the price of each ticket shall not be more than €10;
  3. the total value of the prizes in a lottery shall not be more than €5,000 or where more than one lottery is held in any week the total value shall not be more than €5,000; and
  4. not more than 5% of the total proceeds shall be retained by the holder of a lottery permit when the lottery is held for the benefit of a charitable organisation.

Where the total value of the prizes is not more than €30,000 – lottery licences

The application for a lottery licence must be made to a judge of the District Court assigned to the district in which it is proposed to promote the lotteries at least 60 days before the first day on which it is intended to promote a lottery to which the application relates.  The following conditions attach to a lottery licence:

  1. the holder of the licence shall derive no personal profit from the lottery;
  2. the value of each prize and the name of the intended beneficiary of the lottery shall be stated on every ticket or coupon or, where the lottery is conducted in a premises, such information shall be prominently displayed at the normal means of access to the premises proposed to be used;
  3. the total value of the prizes, if more than one lottery is held in any week, shall be not more than €30,000, and if one lottery is held in any year, shall be not more than €360,000;
  4. not more than 25% of the total proceeds shall be retained by the holder of the licence and utilised for the expenses of promotion, including commission, and any free entry for the lottery shall be deemed to be a payment of commission to the extent of its value;
  5. not more than 75% of the total proceeds shall be allocated to prizes and not less than 25% shall be allocated to a charitable or philanthropic purpose; and
  6. the allocation of the proceeds referred to above shall be made within one month from the date of the holding of the lottery.

3. Gaming

Under the 1956 Act gaming is defined as “playing a game (whether of skill or chance or partly of skill and partly of chance) for stakes hazarded by the players”.

The 2019 Act simplifies matters by introducing a cohesive licensing regime for gaming, such that “unlawful gaming” simply involves any gaming that is not subject to a gaming permit or a gaming licence.

It is expected that operators that are licensed overseas will still be able to offer online gaming services to Irish customers, subject to those contracts and operations not being subject to Irish law, on the basis that the 2019 Act does not specifically regulate online gaming.

Gaming permits are obtained by making an application to a Superintendent of the Gardaí. The maximum stake is €10 and the maximum prize a player can win in a game is €3,000. The Garda Superintendent must consider a number of factors in deciding whether to issue a gaming permit, as set out in the 2019 Act. A gaming permit will not issue where the chances of all the players, including the banker, are not equal. This effectively excludes all forms of a traditional casino from the possibility of obtaining a gaming permit.

For gaming machines, and all other gaming where the maximum stake is €5 and no player can win more than €500 in a game, a gaming licence is required from the Revenue Commissioners, which is the same as the position under the 1956 Act.

4. Penalties

The penalties for operating a lottery in contravention of the 1956 Act have been increased by the 2019 Act.

On summary conviction an accused is liable for a fine up to €5,000 and / or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years. On conviction on indictment, the penalty is a fine up to €50,000 and / or imprisonment for up to 6 years. A director, secretary, manager and/or other officer of a company may be convicted where an offence is committed by the company and is so committed with the consent or connivance of or to be attributable to any neglect on the part of the director, secretary or other officer of the company.

5. Future developments

The 2019 Act was described in the press release announcing the commencement of the 2019 Act as an interim reform measure, pending a more comprehensive overhaul of gambling legislation. It is clearly the Government’s intention to modernise further Ireland’s licensing and regulatory environment for gambling.

Also contributed by Aaron McCarthy

This document has been prepared by McCann FitzGerald LLP 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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