knowledge | 15 November 2022 |

Update on the Gambling Regulation Bill

Today marks a significant milestone in the reform of gambling laws in Ireland with the news that the Government has today approved the publication of the Gambling Regulation Bill (the “Bill”), (announcement available here).

Speaking at the launch of the Bill, Minister Browne stated “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. This Bill provides a clearer framework for operators and for consumers.”

The Bill follows the publication of the General Scheme of Gambling Regulation Bill (available here)  in October 2021 and the appointment of the CEO Designate of the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland in September 2022 (available here).

The Bill itself is expected to be published in the coming days, however, we have set out below some of the key points to note from the announcement and associated media webinars that were held to announce the publication of the bill:

  • The Bill will be a significant piece of legislation containing 218 sections.
  • At the heart of the Bill will be the establishment of the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland.  The Bill will set out the key functions of the regulator which will include the control and licensing of gambling activity in Ireland, the monitoring of compliance, the taking of enforcement actions and the setting of standards around advertising, sponsorship, protection of children and the protection of the vulnerable;
  • The Bill will introduce a new streamlined licensing regime with three licence types being available. The types of licences that will be available to retail and online operators will be:
    1. Business to Consumer Gaming, Betting and Lottery Licences;
    2. Business to Business Licences; and
    3. Gambling licences for Charitable/Philanthropic Causes.
  • The Gambling Regulatory Authority will adopt a phased approach to licensing with transitional arrangements being put in place for those who have existing licences;
  • Whilst the Bill will seek to strike a balance between the freedom of people to gamble it would appear that the protection of the vulnerable and children will be a major focus of the Bill.  It has been announced that the Bill will;
    1. Prohibit advertising that is intended to appeal to children;
    2. Introduce a ban on advertising of gambling products between 5.30 am and 9 pm which will extend to advertising on social media platforms;
    3. Contain restrictions on sponsorship of sporting events where the event is likely to appeal to children;
    4. Contain restrictions on the ability of gambling companies to provide inducements/incentives to individual customers;
    5. Prohibit gambling operators from having ATM machines on premises or accepting credit cards;
    6. Provide for the establishment of a Social Impact Fund for the purposes of financing research and information, education and awareness raising measures, and appropriately supporting problem gambling treatment activities.
  • The Bill will provide for the creation of a National Self Exclusion Register.  It will be a requirement for online operators to not accept bets from customers who have opted to self-exclude.  A policy decision has been made to not seek to apply this to in person betting given the practical difficulties that this can create; and
  • The Gambling Regulatory Authority will be given significant powers to levy administrative sanctions and to commence prosecution of offences;
  • To ensure that the legislation remains flexible, the Gambling Regulatory Authority will be delegated responsibility for developing codes of practice which operators will be obliged to comply with as part of their licensing conditions.  The precise requirements of these codes have yet to be drafted.

The publication of the Bill is the key next step in the reform of Ireland’s outdated gambling laws and the creation of the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland.  Whilst this represents a significant step to reform it is likely that it will be late 2023 by the time that the Gambling Regulatory Authority is operational given that significant work has still to be done to enact the Bill, develop codes of practice, draft licensing conditions and hire appropriate staff for the Gambling Regulatory Authority.

We will provide further updates on the Bill in the coming days once it is published.

Also contributed by Niall Manning

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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