New gambling law will ban all social media advertising

Gambling Regulation Bill will have power to impose terms of imprisonment on those who fail to protect children and vulnerable customers

A total ban will be imposed on gambling advertising on social media and there will be criminal sanctions for gambling companies who fail to protect children and vulnerable consumers under tough laws approved by Cabinet on Tuesday.

Terms of imprisonment of up to eight years can be imposed on the senior management of gambling companies that fail to follow the provisions of the Gambling Regulation Bill.

The proposed Bill is the most far-reaching and comprehensive legislation to regulate gambling in the history of the State and will fundamentally change the rules of gambling in Ireland, both physical gambling and the burgeoning online industry.

As well as setting up a powerful Gambling Regulatory Authority, the legislation will introduce a range of sweeping measures to protect consumers, problem gamblers, and vulnerable users, especially children.


It will not only regulate and circumscribe the activities of gambling companies but will also set out strict new rules on advertising and sponsorship.

The Bill was brought to Cabinet by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee on behalf of James Browne for whom this substantial piece of legislation has taken up most of his time since being appointed Minister of State for Law Reform in 2020.

The Bill will reform legislation dating from 1956 which was wholly inadequate to deal with the dramatic changes that have occurred in the Gambling industry in the past two decades.

An essential component of the new Bill is a new Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland which will have extensive powers to ensure protection for consumers. Anne Marie Caulfield has already been appointed as chief executive to begin work on establishing the authority.

In addition to a ban on gambling advertising on social media, there will be a total ban on any advertising on TV or online between the hours of 5.30am and 9pm each day. This is to ensure that children are not exposed to gambling. The includes advertising carried on satellite carriers such as Sky Sports.

At a media event to coincide with the publication of the Bill, Mr Browne said it is a tough piece of legislation. He said if an online gambling company was beyond the reach of this jurisdiction, the legislation would enable the gambling regulator to instruct the Internet Service Provider to make the site unavailable in Ireland.

In addition, any sporting club that has members under the age of 18 will not be allowed to be sponsored by a gambling company.

There will also be prohibitions on allowing children into any premises where gambling occurs and protections to ensure children do not have access to remote or online gambling. Advertisements will be required not to attach children.

In addition, any inducements to entice adults to gambling will be banked including free hospitality, VIP treatment, free bets and special offers. Ireland also will follow the lead of the UK and ban all credit card gambling.

However, a leading psychiatrist treating gambling addiction has said that the new regulations are a “good start” but put a “huge task” on the new regulator charged with enforcing them.

Prof Colin O’Gara, head of addiction services at Saint John of God Hospital in Dublin, said he was concerned that the decisions around limits and gambling controls have been divested to the new Gambling Regulatory Authority, putting an onerous task on a public office.

He expressed concern around timelines and what process the authority would go through to set controls and whether this would be “another challenge to get the protections we really want.”

The Government plans to start recruiting 100 people for the authority in the coming weeks.

“The bill hits all the right notes but the devil really is in the detail and it is laying it onto the authority,” said Prof O’Gara, who is clinical professor of psychiatry at UCD.

“I wish the authority really well but they are up to a huge task for a public office in my view. I cannot think of any public office where there is going to be such a task. It is a medical, public health and social justice issue all entwined in one.”

The Government’s regulations include plans for a levy to be imposed on the €8 billion gambling industry that will create a Social Impact Fund, that will held cover the cost of treatment for gambling addictions, and to educate people and raise awareness.

Prof O’Gara said the creation of a national network of addiction treatment services, for both in-patients and out-patients, was “an enormous undertaking” and that he had in the past argued for a 1 per cent levy on turnover that was substantial but which “has to be substantial.”

Multidisciplinary teams would be required to help between 1 and 5 per cent of young people who are affected by gambling, he said.

“You are talking vast sums of money here. It is the one addiction where you can actually argue it is justifiable in the context of the massive profits that gambling companies are making,” he said.

“Up to this point it has been mass profit but all these terrible stories of all these people affected, so there is a huge imbalance there.”

Prof O’Gara has in the past criticised children being exposed to gambling advertising on television and said that the State had “absolutely failed our young people” in distinguishing between sport and gambling.

The regulations include a total ban on gambling advertising on social media and criminal sanctions for gambling companies who fail to protect children.

The Bill will also provide for a National Gambling Exclusion Register. All gambling companies which offer services in Ireland, either physically or online, will have to register with the authority. If a person decides they have a problem with gambling they can add their details to the register to self exclude. There will be a requirement on all companies to ensure that person is excluded.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times