Irish government to establish new gambling regulator

21 March 2019

The Republic of Ireland Government has set out plans to form a new gambling regulatory authority with oversight of the country's online and land-based market.

An Inter-Departmental Working Group has published a new report on the issue, in which it focuses on the future licensing and regulation of gambling in Ireland.

In the report, Minister of State David Stanton says Ireland is currently applying a “mid-20th century approach” to gambling activities and not taking into account the advances in digital technologies in recent years.

Stanton said comprehensive reform of the industry is required in order to bring the market up to date, but this will not be possible without establishing a new independent regulatory authority.

Current Irish legislation does not provide for a coherent licensing and regulatory approach to gambling aside from specific legislation governing the country's National Lottery, the report noted, with oversight for the sector divided between a number of government departments and agencies.

This body would assume responsibility for regulation of the Irish market, which would include awarding licences to operators that want to offer gaming services in the country. The regulator would also have enforcement powers, such as the ability to impose fines on operators and suspend or revoke licences.

The new authority would also be responsible for the management of a social fund and subsequent disbursement of monies to approved addiction treatment centres and organisations, as well as raising awareness of gambling-related issues, carrying out industry research and running educational initiatives.

In addition, the regulatory body would act as the lead Irish agency in European Union and cross-border cooperation in combating betting-related match-fixing and money laundering.

It is intended that the authority would be funded primarily from fees and levies on regulated gambling activities in Ireland.

“As the gambling industry changes, and indeed as the demographics and motivations of its customers change, so must the State’s licensing and regulatory approach,” Stanton said in the report.

“The Working Group is firmly of the view that without a new independent regulatory authority of sufficient scale, the comprehensive reform required will not be possible.

“Effective modern licensing, regulation and monitoring of the gambling industry will come at a cost. The Working Group concludes nevertheless that such an authority can in time be substantially self-financing, through income from licence and other fees charged to gambling operators.”

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.

Byne 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.

“An independent regulator and gambling control bill, will ensure enforcement and compliance by all gambling operators, not just betting shops, which will lead to better consumer protections and support for those who may be vulnerable to addiction.”