Parties pledge gaming overhaul in Irish election manifestos

28 January 2020

Ireland’s leading political parties have pledged to establish a gambling regulator in their manifestos for 8 February’s General Election.

Governing party Fine Gael, which all polls conducted since the election was called on 14 January project to have the second-highest number of seats in the Dáil, said it would introduce an independent gambling regulator in order to address the issue of problem gambling.

“We will emulate best practice in the design of the new regulatory body and ensure that it is equipped to respond to a rapidly evolving gambling environment,” the party manifesto said.

Fine Gael added that it will examine the rules put in place around gambling and tighten them if necessary.

“We will review the controls that exist in relation to access to, and the behaviour of, gambling apps and websites; and, if the existing controls are not sufficient to prevent underage or vulnerable people from gambling, we will mandate the regulator to put strict controls in place,” the party said.

In addition, the party pledged to “increase awareness of the range of interventions for the treatment of gambling, providing access to assessment and individual counselling services".

Fianna Fáil, which leads the polls and is Fine Gael’s current confidence and supply partner, listed a series of policies for “safe and socially responsible gambling” in their manifesto.

“Fianna Fáil is committed to implementing regulation for socially responsible gambling,” the party manifesto said. "This means setting out clear regulations to prevent the sector doing harm.”

Fianna Fáil said that - given Fine Gael has been the largest governing party in Ireland since 2011 and did not opt to regulate gambling - it had “no credibility” on the matter.

The party added that its gambling regulator would be funded by an industry levy and would deal with the industry, issue fines, conduct research and operate a Social Fund funded by the industry to help individuals suffering from gambling addiction.

As well as setting up a regulator, Fianna Fáil pledged that it would Introduce age restrictions, gambling limits, cooling off periods and a ban on gambling with credit cards.

“Limits to the amounts available and strict cooling-off periods will help prevent serial gambling abuse,” the party said.

Fianna Fáil would also implement a whistle-to-whistle advertising ban for live sport, strict advertising restrictions and a ban on loot boxes in video games.

“The ubiquity of gambling advertising risks seeping into vulnerable users and children,” the manifesto continued. “It should be confined to appropriate post-watershed times and tackled online.”

Opposition party Sinn Fein, who currently place third in the polls, have not yet released their manifesto to the public.

The Irish Labour party said that it would, “implement a strategy to tighten the regulation of gambling,” including a ban on credit cards to gamble. The Green Party and People Before Profit did not mention gambling in their manifestos.

Ireland is in the process of overhauling its outdated gambling laws, initally through the 2019 Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill. The legislation, which was passed by the Dáil in December last year, formally introduces an 18+ age restriction for gambling, as well as a €10 stake limit and €750 prize cap for gaming machines.

This, however, is to be superseded by the Gambling Control Bill, which is currently under development, and likely to be first presented to the Oireachtas later this year. The Gambling Control Bill is due to establish a dedicated gambling regulator for the country, with power for licensing and enforcement actions.