Up to eight-year sentence for not protecting children from gambling under proposed new law

Gambling Regulation Bill to come before Cabinet for approval

Gambling companies which fail to protect children from accessing their services will face punitive sanctions, including imprisonment of up to eight years, under the Gambling Regulation Bill which will come before the Cabinet for approval.

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 is being brought to Cabinet by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee on behalf of James Browne; this substantial piece of legislation has taken up most of his time since being appointed Minister of State for Law Reform in 2020. It will reform legislation dating from 1953 which was wholly inadequate to deal with the dramatic changes that have occurred in the gambling industry in the past two decades.

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Among the other new measures to protect children will be a ban on gambling advertising between 5.30am-9pm each day. There will 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 attract children.

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

Mr Browne has said in the recent past he expects the new laws to commence in 2023, including the full operation of the seven-person authority. Anne Marie Caulfield has already been appointed as chief executive.

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 then excluded.

There will also be a levy imposed on the industry for a social impact fund, which will conduct research, provide problem gambling treatments, and also provide education and awareness. Gambling in Ireland has become a multibillion industry over the past two decades.

It is understood there will be powers in the Bill to prevent gambling to be used as a means of laundering money for terrorist and criminal enterprises.

The Cabinet will also be asked to approve a bid by Ireland and the UK to host the Euro 2028 football tournament. Ministers Catherine Martin and Jack Chambers will bring the memo to Ministers asking for permission to send a letter of support from Government to the Football Association of Ireland (FAI).

The FAI, along with the four “home” associations in Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland must submit the bid to Uefa by Wednesday. The bid is considered to have a strong possibility of being successful as Turkey is the only other bidder for soccer’s second biggest global tournament.

Croke Park and the Aviva Stadium could potentially share seven games if Euro 2028 was held in Ireland. Some 120,000 fans might travel to Ireland for the event.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times