Gambling regulator urged to stop photos of politicians betting on themselves

Fine Gael chairman warns of dangers of gambling addiction and some online children’s games

Martin Heydon  called for the regulation of online games including Fortnite, played by children as young as 10. Such games, he said, were highly addictive. Photograph: Getty Images

Martin Heydon called for the regulation of online games including Fortnite, played by children as young as 10. Such games, he said, were highly addictive. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The proposed new gambling regulator will have to stop photos of politicians putting bets on themselves on the first day of a general election, chairman of the Fine Gael parliamentary party Martin Heydon has warned.

The Kildare North TD said such practices have to stop because of the pervasive nature of gambling and the impact on people with an addiction and he called for restrictions on gambling advertising.

Mr Heydon said, “On the first day of an election campaign, politicians have a photo taken of them putting a bet on themselves to win.

“This needs to be stopped, just like where we stopped taking visiting dignitaries straight to the pub for a pint. That kind of culture change is important and an independent office will bring that about.”

He also called for the regulation of online games including Fortnite, played by children as young as 10. Such games, he said, were highly addictive.

Children seek to get to the next level of the game and can purchase a “loot box” which, he said, may contain something that will help them progress “or it could just be rubbish”.

Mr Heydon cited one child who spent all their confirmation money on progressing to higher levels of the game.

He said a regulator was urgently needed because no matter what legislation was in place it could not keep up with changes in technology.

Young men were also particularly affected, he said. “I know apprentices earning €200 or €250 a week who manage to get three or four credit cards and they will run up a debt of €20,000 before their parents found out.”

He said that it was one thing to use up the money in a debit account but gambling with credit cards should be prevented.

Mr Heydon said, “These young males would hardly ever be seen in a bookies’ but with iphones and smartphones they don’t have to go near one.”

Minister of State David Stanton will publish legislation by the end of this year to amend the Gaming and Lotteries Act. He acknowledged it was a “very complex area, especially with modern technology”.

But referring to Fortnite and similar games, he said, “to offer gambling products in Ireland . . . a licence is required” under current betting and gaming legislation.

“To the best of our knowledge no manufacturer to date has sought such licensing,” either in Ireland or other EU member states, he said.

A betting regulator will be introduced as part of the proposed Gambling Bill. This has been stalled for almost five years in part because of legal difficulties.

The Government earlier this year approved the establishment of an independent regulator for the gambling industry to deal with licensing, regulating, monitoring, inspection and enforcement of the sector.

A report by an interdepartmental group he chaired that included the Attorney General’s office is being prepared and the Minister hopes to bring it to Government “as soon as possible”.