New Irish Regulations for Betting Industry Delayed at Least 18 Months

Man betting on his phone with a credit card.
Ireland’s new gambling bill will modernize laws that are decades out of date.

30-second summary:

  • Gaming and Lotteries Amendment Bill 2019 will modernize Ireland’s out-of-date legislation
  • New regulator to be established to reform Irish betting industry, funded by industry levy
  • Age limit of at least 18 to gamble will be standardized
  • An increase in stake and prizes for gaming machines

The government of the Republic of Ireland is set to publish a bill that will update decades-old gambling laws. It includes plans for a new gambling regulatory authority to reform Ireland’s $9.1bn betting industry.

Although the new regulator will not be installed for at least 18 months, some serious changes are expected.

Cabinet approval

The cabinet has approved the establishment of the independent regulator as well as interim measures to update decades-old laws. Prime minister Leo Varadkar described these as “quite out of date”.

Despite demands from anti-gambling groups for stronger state intervention, the establishment of the regulator “is something for the next 18 months rather than the next couple of months”, he said.

Minister of state with responsibility for gambling, David Stanton, received cabinet approval to publish the Gaming and Lotteries Amendment Bill 2019, which will modernize existing laws.

He said he was “particularly anxious” to curb underage gambling, and hoped to standardize the age limit for participating in all activities under the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 at 18 years of age.

In addition, the Totalisator Act 1929 “will be amended to provide for an age limit of 18 years for betting with the Tote,” Stanton said.

Impact of changes

The new regulatory body will be financed by a levy on every part of the gambling industry, said Varadkar. Part of the levy will be used to fund research and education.

The regulator will also distribute monies to approved addiction treatment centers and organizations, as well as raising awareness of gambling-related issues.

The authority will have powers to award, suspend or revoke licenses to operators. Licenses would be issued under the categories of betting, gaming and lotteries, gaming machines, bingo, casino, and online gambling.

The new regulator will also have enforcement powers, such as the ability to impose fines or sanctions on operators if necessary.

The revenue commissioners, local authorities, An Garda Síochána (the police service), the district court and Horse Racing Ireland will have no further direct responsibility in the licensing of all types of gambling permits and licenses.

The transfer of responsibility from councils impacts the licensing and regulation of thousands of gaming machines.

Key points

  • The report contains a number of key recommendations for the sector and will be used as a blueprint for the regulator.
  • The report recommends the establishment of a sports betting integrity unit within the authority, modelled on that of the UK. This has been proposed in light of concerns raised about possible attempts at match-fixing in Irish sporting events.
  • The regulator could create a new code on gambling advertising, sponsorship and promotion. This would be done in consultation with the relevant departments, sporting organizations and other bodies.
  • A ban on betting inducements such as advancing credit to a person for the purpose of betting or return of lost player funds.
  • Possible imposition of daily, weekly and monthly spending limits for certain gambling activities, with appropriate cooling-off periods where the player seeks to increase previous limits.
  • Stakes and prizes for gaming machines will rise. The limits have not been increased in over 56 years, dating back to the Gaming and Lotteries Act of 1956. The bill proposes to increase limits to $11 and $850, from $0.03 and $o.50 respectively.

Bookmakers welcome changes

The Irish Bookmakers Association (IBA), the representative body for betting operators in Ireland, has welcomed the new report. Chairperson Sharon Byrne said the new regulatory authority should be introduced as soon as possible.

Byrne added: “We are hopeful that this will be the final step towards completion and enactment of a Gambling Control bill and independent regulator.  Our members have already introduced many of the advertising standards, customer monitoring and customer protection measures recommended by regulators in other countries.”