Law to license online gambling and limit casino size

Social fund to treat problem gamblers contained in general scheme of Bill

The Bill will limit the number of casinos in the state to 40 and no casino will have more than 15 tables. Photograph: Jessica Kourkounis/The New York Times

The Bill will limit the number of casinos in the state to 40 and no casino will have more than 15 tables. Photograph: Jessica Kourkounis/The New York Times

Mon, Jul 15, 2013, 12:16

Details of gambling legislation which will extend licensing to online gaming and limit the number and size of casinos, have been published by the Minister for Justice.

A fund to help treatment for problem gamblers is also contained in the general scheme of the Gambling Control Bill, which has been approved by the Cabinet.

The legislation aims to effectively regulate the “new and dynamic gambling sector that has emerged in recent years” while providing an opportunity to introduce new measures to “protect vulnerable adults and young people”, Alan Shatter said in a statement.

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Anyone offering gambling services , whether based in the State or elsewhere must have a licence under the new Bill. It will replace all existing arrangements for betting, gaming,bingo and lotteries , except for the National Lottery).

The Bill will limit the number of casinos in the State to 40 and no casino will have more than 15 tables. It will also relax the rule that bingo always has to be for charitable or philanthropic purposes.

Mr Shatter said technological changes were the biggest factor in the recent expansion of gambling. “ I will ensure that the new law will have the flexibility necessary to deal with rapid and continuous innovation, in the public interest,”he said. The Bill would prohibit or restrict certain games if they are harmful and games are not yet in use, he said.

A new self-financing agency will be set up to licence and regulate the sector, he added.

Mr Shatter said he was particularly committed to ensure “effective and robust” safeguards were in place to protect young people and problem gamblers.

To that aim, among the new measures are age restrictions; staff training, advertising and promotion controls, a complaints and compensation procedure. Operators will have to keep enough financial reserves to cover entitlements of customers.

It will also introduce a new social gambling fund to help with treatment services for problem gamblers, which will be a levy on operators. “I expect the gambling sector to commit itself in a meaningful way to the concept and practice of socially responsible gambling. I will accept nothing less than high quality services and I will make sure that all operators pay their share for the development of services needed by people for whom gambling has become a problem,” Mr Shatter said.

The Bill includes a full ban on fixed-odds betting terminals which reflected Government concern at their harmful effects, a Department of Justice statement said.

Mr Shatter has prioritised the need to make sure gambling operations are not controlled by criminal gangs and has included arrangements to check the suitability of operators including checks on criminal records and arrangements to contact law enforcement bodies abroad.

Mr Shatter said the Bill would being “legal certainty” in the area and bring a system that would be internationally recognised as “well regulated”.

The general scheme of the Bill has been published and work is under way to complete its drafting .

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