The debate has begun ahead of the creation of the new Irish gambling regulator, now due to launch in 2023.
Ireland.- Senators have begun debating the creation of Ireland’s new gambling regulator, which has been put back further to 2023.
Ireland’s Interim Gaming and Lotteries Act, which was passed in December, mandates the government to overhaul existing gambling legislation dating back to 1931 and 1956.
Part of the overhaul involves the creation of a new gambling regulator, which has already been much delayed. There were plans to create the new regulator this year, but the launch has been put back to 2023.
In the debate in the Senate this week, James Browne, minister of state in the Department of Justice, said the new body was necessary to create a more cohesive regulatory framework for gambling in Ireland.
He said the country had an “inconsistent regulatory environment” due to regulation being “spread widely across a range of departments and agencies”.
He said: “The new regulator will, when fully operational, assume all of the current gambling licensing and regulatory responsibilities as well as new and more extensive enforcement duties.
“When it is established, the regulator will have the necessary enforcement powers for licensing and powers to take action where individuals or operators fail to follow rules and regulations.
“Its key objectives will be as follows: to prevent gambling from being a source or support to crime; to ensure that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way for companies to make decisions in certainty; and to require the promotion of safe and responsible gambling, and to combat problem gambling.”
Some senators continue to call for the new Irish gambling regulator to be introduced earlier.
Senator Alice-Mary Higgins, an Independent for Dublin, said the need for a new regulator had become even stronger due to the Covid-19 pandemic causing an increase in problem gambling in Ireland.
She said: “Lack of regulation means we are getting all-hours and all-locations advertising, which is a concern.
“We know we can take action to address this, as we did when we placed constraints in legislation on the advertising and sale of alcohol.”
Fiona O’Loughlin, a Fianna Fáil senator for Kildare, said: “The regulator should cover the industry, issue fines, conduct research and operate a social fund funded by the industry to help individuals who are suffering from gambling addiction.
“A modern and effectively regulated gambling environment must 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.”
Public expenditure minister Michael McGrath recently called for the introduction of legislation to prohibit lottery betting in Ireland.