New gambling laws will boost protections for punters, says expert

Betting businesses could face fines of up to €20m if they breach some provisions outlined in Bill

The proposed law seeks to protect vulnerable customers, and requires companies to contribute to a social fund to aid those with gambling problems. Photograph: iStock

The proposed law seeks to protect vulnerable customers, and requires companies to contribute to a social fund to aid those with gambling problems. Photograph: iStock

 

New gambling laws will boost protections for punters, says one expert, though he warns that regulation must be effective for the system to work.

The Minister of State for Law Reform, James Browne, recently published the general scheme for a Bill that will establish a new licensing and regulation regime for betting in the Republic.

Betting businesses could face fines of up to €20 million or 10 per cent of one year’s turnover for breaches of some provisions, Mr Browne’s statement said.

According to Alan Heuston, partner in commercial law firm McCann Fitzgerald, the new law will provide extra protections for consumers, including an arbitration system for dealing with disputes between companies and their customers.

The law also seeks to protect vulnerable customers and requires companies to contribute to a social fund to aid those with gambling problems.

Mr Heuston stressed that the proposed Gambling Authority must be an effective regulator, including against overseas operators that continue to trade online here without proper licensing.

“The regulator will have the ability to enforce against those who do not comply with the law of the land,” he explained.

Mr Heuston argued it was important for consumers and for businesses that do follow the new rules that the regulator must be able to enforce effectively against operators that do not comply. “If you do not have an effective regulator you are almost back to square one.”

The solicitor noted that the Republic’s current gambling laws dated back to 1931, barring some changes in 2015. Consequently he said they were out of date and not fit for purpose. A previous general scheme published in 2013 never materialised into legislation.

New regulator

The new scheme is based on a paper prepared by a group made up of several government department representatives in 2018.

Mr Heuston predicted it could take 12 to 18 months for the Oireachtas to pass the legislation and the Government to establish the new regulator.

Mr Browne said the Government had earmarked €500,000 in 2022 to pay the initial costs of appointing a chief executive to run the new authority and to establish the new body itself.

“The authority will have the necessary enforcement powers for licensing and to enable it to take appropriate and focused action where providers are failing to comply with the provisions of this legislation,” said the Minister.