New gambling law stalled for 3 years, Independent TD claims

Maureen O’Sullivan says there are 40,000 ‘problem gamblers’ in the State

Maureen O’Sullivan is concerned at the slow pace of progress on the Gambling Control Bill. Photograph: Getty images

Maureen O’Sullivan is concerned at the slow pace of progress on the Gambling Control Bill. Photograph: Getty images

 

The Government has been warned of the dangers posed by ongoing delays in introducing legislation to deal with the “silent addiction” of gambling.

Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan said there had been no progress on the Gambling Control Bill in three years.

She said the perception people had was that “gambling is just an odd flutter on the Grand National, but we have some 40,000 problem gamblers and there has been a significant increase in adolescent gambling”.

The Dublin Central deputy highlighted the potential criminality involved and said there were no appropriate powers of enforcement as the legislation was so outdated “and virtually unenforceable”.

They were particularly deficient because they did not take account of online and mobile-based forms of gambling.

“The industry has licensed bookmakers and online betting licences but there are private members’ clubs and casinos, some regulated and some not, gaming arcades, some licensed and some not, and gaming and amusement machines, some licensed and some not.”

Ms O’Sullivan pointed to a €38,000 betting slip that was seized a few months ago during a raid on a prominent criminal gang.

She said “one per cent of the industry is regulated for money laundering, which means that 99 per cent is not”, and said an estimated €5 billion is spent on gambling every year in Ireland.

Ms O’Sullivan said the Financial Action Task Force, an international agency to combat money laundering was undertaking an evaluation of Ireland.

“Criticism is expected for our lack of appropriate legislation to prevent money laundering through the gambling industry.”

The Dublin Central deputy said there was a major human cost including psychiatric difficulties, relationship breakdowns and the loss of incomes, jobs, homes and vast sums of money.

Ms O’Sullivan raised her concerns in the Dáil with Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald and said the Gambling Control Bill was long overdue.

“The general scheme was published in July 2013 and pre-legislative scrutiny was conducted in November 2013 but there has been nothing since”.

The Minister for Justice said it was an area of huge concern because of the impact on individuals and families.

She acknowledged that the scheme for the Bill was “published some years ago” and said Minister of State David Stanton “is prioritising it in his work”.

She said the scheme of the Bill that was published suggested a need for further research. Mr Stanton has asked the Department of Justice to examine if there were particular issues that could be brought forward more quickly.

“He has had consultations with the stakeholders in the area and is continuing those,” Ms Fitzgerald said. The Minister of State had been working on it quite intensively and “intends to move forward as quickly as possible with the appropriate legislation”, she added.