Irish government approves Gambling Regulation Bill

The Irish government hopes that the Gambling Regulatory Authority will be operational next year.
The Irish government hopes that the Gambling Regulatory Authority will be operational next year.

The legislation will create a new gambling regulator while introducing new restrictions on advertising and promotion.

Ireland.- The Irish government has approved the country’s Gambling Regulation Bill. The most immediate implication is that gambling advertising will be prohibited between 5.30am and 9pm and free bets will be banned.

Other restrictions include a ban on gambling with credit cards, a ban on advertising aimed at children and a prohibition against placing ATMs in certain areas of gaming venues. The legislation also creates a new gambling regulator, the Gambling Regulatory Authority, which the government hopes will be operational next year.

The new regulator will have powers to licence gambling businesses, regulate advertising and impose sanctions. It replaces Ireland’s existing fragmented system under which gambling was the responsibility of several government departments. Anne Marie Caulfield was named the regulator’s chief executive officer designate in September.

There will be three licence categories for remote and in-person gambling: B2C gaming, betting and lottery licences, B2B licences and charity licences.    

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “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.

“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.”

Minister of State James Browne, who led the development of the legislation, said: “Reforming gambling legislation and regulation in Ireland is a key commitment in our programme for Government and Justice Plan, and has been one of my key priorities as minister. I am pleased to have gotten the draft legislation to this point, and look forward now to it being published and brought through the houses to enactment.

“This legislation will establish a gambling regulator which will be robust with a focus on prevention of harm to people vulnerable to problem gambling and particularly protecting children, and also a focus on enforcement of a strong, modern regulatory framework for the gambling industry.

Browne warned that there would be criminal penalties for operators who continue to offer illegal gambling services.

“Operators who provide gambling activities without a gambling licence issued by the Authority, or who do not operate in accordance with the provisions of their licence could, if convicted, face to up to 8 years imprisonment and/or a fine at the discretion of the courts,” he said.

He added: “Strict regulation of gambling advertising will be a priority area for the Authority. Under the legislation, advertising intended to appeal to children will be prohibited, as will advertising that promotes excessive or compulsive gambling. In this digital age, to address the particular proliferation of gambling advertising on social media, such advertising shall be prohibited by default.

“The bill also puts forward certain measures to minimise the ill effects of gambling. The Bill will establish a National Gambling Exclusion Register. The bill prohibits the use of credit credits as a form of payment. The Bill will allow the Authority to prohibit the offer of inducements and promotions. 

“A Social Impact Fund will be created and managed by the Authority while being funded from the industry. It will be used to finance initiatives to reduce problem gambling and support awareness–raising and educational measures.”

Earlier this year, the Taoiseach said that gambling addiction should be dealt with in a similar way to smoking, receiving “the full gamut of advertising regulation”. The Irish leader made the comments in response to questions raised about the attendance by some government senators and TDs at Punchestown Races.

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