Reform of gambling laws to include ‘big beast’ regulator

Rapidly changing industry: Independent regulator to employ up to 100 people

Long-promised laws to regulate the gambling sector in Ireland will include a “big beast” independent regulator employing up to 100 people.

The Minister of State with responsibility for the gambling industry, David Stanton, has admitted he is “frustrated” at the protracted delay in publishing the legislation, which is now running almost five years behind schedule.

However, Mr Stanton has defended the delay on the basis that there have been enormous changes in the industry – especially with the rise of online betting, much of it being offered by companies located offshore.

He said the stand-alone regulator’s office, when established, would deal with gambling addiction, advertising, sponsorship, underage gambling, promotions, and the myriad of online offerings including “games”, “virtual betting” and continuous betting.


Arcane laws

The multibillion-euro betting, gaming, and gambling industries in Ireland are regulated by arcane laws, principally the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956, and the Betting Act of 1931, both of which the Government has admitted are out of date.

With internet gambling you could lose your house overnight online. This is the area we need to regulate

Mr Stanton said he plans to amend the 1956 Act, which deals mainly with gaming machines in amusement arcades, to include the burgeoning area of online gaming.

That will be followed with the draft of the comprehensive Gambling Control Bill followed by the full Bill. Mr Stanton said he expects both to be published during 2019. On this time scale, it will be 2020 at the earliest before it progresses through the Oireachtas and is enacted.

Mr Stanton said there were real concerns that needed to be addressed. “With internet gambling you could lose your house overnight online. This is the area we need to regulate, as well as the advertising and glamorising of gambling.

Mr Stanton said he was concerned children were being ‘groomed’ by online games which are a precursor to gambling sites. He said the new laws would prohibit activities that encouraged children into gambling.

While not directly related, he said that “loot boxes” where money is requested to acquire a new “skill” or “defence” in an internet game had given rise to concern. “Is that gambling or not gambling?” he asked.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times