Fines of up to €20m for gambling providers who break new rules

Minister says role of CEO designate of new authority will be advertised before Christmas

 

Gambling providers can be fined up to €20 million or 10 per cent of their turnover if they break new rules set to be introduced by the State’s first gambling regulator.

Announcing new legislation to regulate Ireland’s multi-billion euro gambling industry, Minister of State in the Department of Justice James Browne described the current laws as “outdated” and “incoherent”, with some laws stretching back to the 1930s.

The legislation will ban free bets and inducements and will introduce a new code around gambling advertising.

The laws will give the regulator and authority new powers to suspend or revoke a provider’s licence and to administer financial sanctions.

They will also have the ability to block remote or online access to a provider’s service in Ireland or to shut down those operations entirely.

Bank accounts and assets can be frozen and payments can be blocked.

Sanctions will go up to €20 million in the case of an individual, and €20 million or 10 per cent of relevant turnover in a financial year where the provider is not an individual.

The new authority will have the power to regulate gambling across all forms of media, as well as addressing the issue of sponsorship by gambling companies.

New codes will set out the times and frequency which gambling advertising can appear on television, radio, and other media platforms each day.

There will be prohibitions on the offer of credit or credit facilities to players, spending limits “where practicable” and the use of credit cards will be banned.

A social impact fund will be set up to fund research and information, education measures as well as addiction treatment.

Mr Browne said the role of CEO designate of the new authority will be advertised before Christmas while the legislation proceeds throughout the Oireachtas in order to avoid any delays in getting the organisation up and running.

“The aim of putting a CEO designate in place is to help guide and establish the authority so that when the legislation is passed both are in situ at the same time,” Mr Browne said.

As part of Budget 2022, €500,000 has been put aside to meet the costs of appointing the CEO designate as well as non-pay-related costs in establishing the authority.

It is envisaged that the authority will have a staff of between 80 to 100 people. Mr Browne said there are around 55,000 problem gamblers in Ireland with more and more women becoming addicted.

“People with gambling addiction face financial disaster. Very often the first that families or loved ones know about addiction is when the sheriff calls to the door or the gardaí call to the door or worse.”

Asked what lobbying he was subjected to while the legislation was being drafted, Mr Browne said a huge amount of research had been carried out by previous Ministers who met with industry and so he took a view that he did not need to meet the industry, although he said opportunities to hold meetings would arise in future.