New lottery regulator may eventually oversee entire gambling industry

Minister alarmed by the rapid growth in high street casino businesses and online gaming websites

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin. Photo: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin. Photo: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

 


The proposed regulator of the National Lottery may eventually be tasked with overseeing the State’s entire gambling industry, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin indicated yesterday.

The Minister said he was alarmed by the rapid growth in high street casino businesses and online gaming websites which were operating in a regulatory vacuum.

Addressing the Oireachtas subcommittee on public expenditure and reform, Mr Howlin said he envisaged the role of the lottery regulator, which will be established by upcoming legislation to facilitate the sale of the State’s lottery licence, to evolve into an “overarching regulator” for the gaming industry as a whole.

Mr Howlin said he had discussed the matter with Minster for Justice Alan Shatter whose department is in the process of drawing up legislation to regulate the gambling industry here.

“It would certainly be my view and the Minister for Justice’s view that the lottery regulator would have a remit not only for the lottery but for gambling in general in due course,” he told the committee.

Legislation to overhaul the existing National Lottery Act, ostensibly designed to relax the rules governing online sales, passed through the committee stage of the Oireachtas yesterday.

A competition to award the next licence will be conducted once the legislation is enacted with the successful bidder being offered a 20-year licence to operate the franchise in exchange for an upfront sum.

Mr Howlin said “a large chunk” of proceeds from the sale had been earmarked for the proposed national children’s hospital which he said would cost the State in the region of €250 million.

However, Fianna Fáil’s Seán Fleming said there were no guarantees in the proposed legislation that the money would be ring-fenced for the hospital project.

Mr Howlin said he had sought and received assurances from the EU-IMF troika that the lottery licence sale was separate from the planned auction of State assets agreed as part of the Ireland’s bailout deal.

Nevertheless, Mr Howlin said he would consider a proposal by Mr Fleming to include a provision, ring-fencing the money from the sale for the hospital in the next memorandum of understanding with the troika.