James Browne has said public health and wellbeing will be the main priority of the new Irish gambling regulator.
Ireland.- The minister of state for justice, James Browne, has pledged to introduce legislation in September to reform Irish gambling and create an “extremely powerful” gambling regulator by the end of the year.
A bill to overhaul Irish gambling was introduced eight years ago but never passed. Since then, there have been increasing calls for tougher regulation of the sector, including calls for a ban on gambling ads.
Last week, Ireland’s president, Michael D Higgins, expressed his own concerns on the matter, criticising “dangerous” gambling advertising.
Browne says a regulator will now be in place by the end of the year, and that public health will be its main priority. He said the regulator would eventually have 100 employees. It will have the power to develop regulations and codes of standards and to impose fines.
He said: “It’s really important to understand that it is not simply a regulator, but they will have a public health remit as their primary focus in every decision and recommendation they will make.”
Gambling prohibition bill
For Labour Party senator Mark Wall, Browne’s timeline is not fast enough. He said: “We cannot wait that long to ban gambling advertising.”
He said he receives calls and emails from people “who simply want to be able to watch their favourite sport without having to wade through advertisement after advertisement encouraging them to gamble.”
The Labour Party is introducing its own gambling prohibition Bill. Wall said that Ireland was spending €9.8bn a year on gambling, “marking us out as the world’s seventh’s biggest spenders on gambling per head.”
“What really disturbs me most is that there is no watershed on gambling advertising in this country,” he added. “And our children and young adults are being exposed to highly addictive behaviour.
“We have so many stories of children as young as six, especially when they were being homeschooled, asking their parents what these ads were all about.”
Wall said a survey conducted by his party found that 80 per cent of respondents had seen an increase in gambling ads and that 65 per cent said they were more inclined to gamble after seeing ads.
Last month, Ireland’s BoyleSports emerged as a possible buyer for part of William Hill’s European business, which is up for sale following Caesars Entertainment’s acquisition of the company.