Ireland’s Slot Machines a “Wild West Sector” with Broken Laws

  • Zero protection for vulnerable people, says CEO of Problem Gambling Ireland
  • 40,000 gaming machines in Ireland, but only 4,491 licenses in effect at the beginning of July
  • Ireland's Exchequer loses up to €27.3m each year in lost license fee and VAT income
man losing at slot machines
Barry Grant says Ireland’s slot machines are creating a “license to print money” amid a total absence of gambling regulations.

“Absolute basket case”

Ireland’s slot machines are creating a “license to print money” as the country awaits an update to its gambling laws.

The comment was made by Barry Grant, CEO of Problem Gambling Ireland, a non-profit organization that provides help to those affected by gambling in the country.

Grant also remarked that “the whole sector is an absolute basket case in terms of the total absence of regulations, the total absence of enforcement of the legislation as it stands and the zero protections for vulnerable people.”

According to Ireland’s The Journal, although measures have been taken to ease the issue, an investigation found that problems still abound.

There are few checks to prevent underage gambling in Ireland. Gamblers are being drawn to the possibility of winning more than what is permitted under existing laws. Casinos and gaming arcades continue to operate despite being banned from obtaining the necessary licenses to function.

Ireland has the third-highest gambling losses worldwide, with the country losing, on average, $470 per adult.

Each gaming machine must obtain a license to operate. According to revenue figures, there were 4,491 such machines in effect at the beginning of July, each costing €505 ($567).

Yet, figures from the Licensed Gaming Association of Ireland (LGAI), a trade which represents a small number of licensed operators, suggest there are around 40,000 gaming machines in Ireland. A significant number of those may be unlicensed or improperly licensed.

While many of these slot machines are found in amusement arcades, they can also be located in pubs, which are prohibited from obtaining licenses to operate them.

Update of existing laws?

Home to between 28,000 and 40,000 people suffering from a gambling disorder, Ireland is considering an update to its 1956 bill, the Gaming and Lotteries Act.

For many, though, it’s not necessarily a step in the right direction.

At present, stakes on slot machines are set to a limit of three cents ($0.033). However, under proposed changes, this number could rise to a maximum stake of €10 ($11). The payout would also increase from 50 cents to €750 ($842).

David Norris, an Independent member of the Irish Senate, suggested that the increases are “enormous and vast.” In the opinion of David Stanton, Minister of State in the Department of Justice who’s behind the bill, the 1956 law is “completely unrealistic” with the times.

Irish Fianna Fáil politician Jack Chambers claims a broken approach to enforcing laws has led to a “wild west sector”.

“There’s a consensus on a need to update our rules and introduce a regulator, but the existing laws should be applied. Because if they’re not, it gives free reign to everyone within the sector to stretch the breaking of the laws as far as they can.”

For now, as the government continues to mull the potential changes to its 1956 bill, many of Ireland’s gaming halls and casinos are ignoring regulations by failing to obtain an operating license. This is costing Ireland’s Exchequer up to €27.3m ($30.6m) each year in lost license fee and VAT income.