Bookie gaming machines face ban


GOVERNMENT recommendations to reform the Republic’s gambling laws will ban the introduction of gaming machines in bookmakers’ shops.

The Department of Justice is expected to bring forward proposals which will form the backbone of legislation to update the regime that governs gambling in the Republic over the next two months.

The measures will ban bookmakers and other operators from providing fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), a type of gaming machine that allows customers to bet on casino games such as roulette and blackjack.

Industry body the Irish Bookmakers’ Association (IBA) asked the Government to consider allowing the machines’ introduction in its pre-budget 2008 submission.

Also, a Government-appointed commission to look at reforming gambling laws had recommended their introduction in licensed casinos. The British government allows bookmakers in that country to operate two such machines per shop.

Recent figures from Ladbrokes show that British punters lost an average of £685 (€782) a week in each of its FOBTs in 2009, a total of £35,620 for the year as a whole. Ladbrokes does not have FOBTs in any of its Irish shops.

When the issue was originally raised, outdated laws meant there was a question over whether or not FOBTs were illegal, and some bookmakers looked at the possibility of trialling them in the Republic. However, the Government warned that the machines were illegal and would be seized if they were introduced. The proposals from the Department of Justice are likely to include provisions for licensing casinos and reforming other areas of the law.

The Government held off on a plan to double betting tax to 2 per cent last year pending talks with bookmakers about taxing online and telephone betting, which are not subject to the levy.

It is not known whether the proposals will tackle this issue.