Irish bookies jump first as modernising legislation looms

Firms to halt credit card betting and pre-9pm TV advertising as they read political mood

Bachasson ridden by Paul Townend. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Bachasson ridden by Paul Townend. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

 

Irish bookies were always short odds to take some steps themselves ahead of an expected modernising of State supervision of their industry. Legislation that will among others things create a gambling regulator and draw up a mandatory code of practice for betting businesses is due before Cabinet in the autumn.

It has been a long time coming, more than a decade in fact, but by all accounts it is now approaching the last few fences. Bookies are following its progress closely. According to reports at the weekend, companies including Boylesports and Ladbrokes will shortly ban credit card betting for Irish betting shop and online customers.

They will also stop advertising during live sports screened before the 9pm watershed, except horse racing. Paddy Power owner, Flutter Entertainment, has already done both. Their action anticipates some of what the Gambling Regulation Bill will contain.

These are large, successful businesses well used to reading political signs. Their moves, which will probably benefit some clients, are mostly meant to signal they are willing to meet legislators halfway, presumably giving them some leverage to ensure the legislation is not too onerous.

Despite being home to one of the world’s biggest betting businesses, Flutter, the Republic is one of the last to modernise its gambling regulation regime. Current laws date from the 1930s, although there have been some amendments since then.

So the regime trails an industry that has been shifting online since the beginning of the century – when the pioneers included Flutter subsidiaries Paddy Power and Betfair – through which it now offers a huge range of sports betting opportunities, as well as poker and multiple casino games.

Britain has had its Gambling Commission since 2007, although that has no jurisdiction in Northern Ireland, where Minister for Communities Deirdre Hargey has said she will introduce modernising legislation later this year.

It has been about 12 years since government in the South committed to going down the route it now appears it will take in the autumn. So the legislation, it if arrives, won’t be coming a moment too soon.

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