Irish lawmakers working to overhaul gambling regulations

7 January 2019

Long-awaited reforms of Ireland’s gambling laws could be fast-tracked this year, with two separate bills set to be published within weeks.

Updates to the shelved Gambling Control Bill 2013 and the Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill – which would modernise legislation in place since 1956 – are being worked on by ministers, with developments expected on both within weeks.

An Inter-Departmental Working Group on Gambling, chaired by Fine Gael politician David Stanton, will submit proposals to the government for an updated Gambling Control Bill in the coming weeks. This is expected to propose the establishment of a new independent regulatory authority, which was originally mooted at the start of last year.

The Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill, which is also set to be filed in the coming weeks, aims to provide for the better promotion of regional lotteries, streamline the application process for permits and licenses, and to increase monetary limits on stakes and prizes for gaming machines where licensed in certain local authority areas.

"The intention is to achieve comprehensive reform of the laws governing the licencing and regulation of all legitimate gambling activities," A Department of Justice spokesperson told iGamingBusiness.com.

“The Minister of State is of the view that there will be general support for the reform proposals.”

The Inter-Departmental Working Group on Gambling, comprising all stakeholder departments and the Office of the Attorney General, has met over a period of several months.

The group’s deliberations were focused in particular on the independent body that would take over responsiblity for regulating gambling from the Department of Justice. Plans outlined last year suggest the duties of the regulator would be the overseeing of licensing, compliance, advertising, and collection of a mandatory levy that would fund access to treatment.

The original 2013 Gambling Control Bill covered numerous aspects around the gambling sector, including restrictions on gambling advertising and responsibility for regulation to be assumed by a body within the Department of Justice.

Its publication in 2013 was followed by a period of consultation with stakeholders in the industry. While generally well received it failed to proceed, in part because of the “technological complexity of the industry,” according to Deputy Anne Rabbitte in a Dail debate last year.

Ireland’s Department of Finance is currently reviewing the impact of its new gambling tax, which doubled the rate to 2% of turnover from January 1, 2019.