Ireland: Gov. Approves Gambling Reform Bill Establishing New Regulatory Authority

Ireland: Gov. Approves Gambling Reform Bill Establishing New Regulatory Authority

Ireland has approved its new Gambling Regulation Bill. The cabinet of the tri-party coalition government signed off on the publication of the legislation today, paving the way to a new regulatory regime drafted by Minister of State James Browne of the Department of Justice.

In accordance with the bill, Irish gambling will be overseen by the newly-formed government agency Gambling Regulatory Authority (GRA). The body will be led by Anne Marie Caulfield, who will act as its first Chief Executive. It is expected that the authority will launch operations as early as possible once the bill is enacted, with the GRA to become operational in 2023.

Through a modern legislative framework for both retail and online gambling, the bill seeks to safeguard the Irish public by updating policies on licensing, consumer standards, safer gambling and operator conduct. The GRA will also be charged with creating an Irish gambling self-exclusion scheme, to be offered to customers by licensed operators, both retail and online.

Other measures call for the introduction of a “Social Impact Fund” for research and supporting treatment of gambling problems, to be financed by a to-be-determined mandatory contribution provided by licensees. Additionally, gambling advertising restrictions will be introduced, reports RTE, including a ban on ads between 5.30 am and 9 pm. The enforcement of new advertising and sponsorship rules across all media will be in charge of the GRA.

Browne said advertising aimed at children and problem gamblers will be banned, the cited source further adds. Betting on credit cards, the placing of ATMs in certain areas and other gambling inducements will also be prohibited; while those operating without a gambling license could also face a prison sentence of up to eight years.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said the bill will ensure that the GRA can respond swiftly to ongoing and future developments in the gambling sector, and that focus on preventing harm is of vital importance. “As a former Minister of Mental Health and as a local representative, I have seen the damaging impact gambling addiction can have on people and families, particularly on their mental health,” she added, as per RTE.

The Irish gambling laws’ reform has been awaited for more than a decade, with past governments criticized for their inability to reform legislation on the matter despite bi-partisan support. Up to this point, Ireland was the only EU member state with no regulatory framework for iGaming.

Reactions to new framework The chief executive of Problem Gambling Ireland described the new legislation as “hugely significant,” highlighting “numerous attempts” had been made to try to get some form of new regulation over the line in the last 10 years.

The move has received the support of Paddy Power and BoyleSports, Ireland’s largest gambling operators, which had previously said they were ready for the market’s overhaul. In 2021, both agreed to no longer accept credit card transactions and to abide by a new code of conduct on advertising.

Speaking on behalf of Flutter Entertainment, the parent company of Paddy Power, Ian Proctor, Chairman of Flutter UK and Ireland, said: “As a long-standing advocate of evidence-based safer gambling measures and a well-resourced regulator in Ireland, Flutter welcomes the imminent publication of the Gambling Regulation Bill.”

“This development is a critical milestone and represents clear progress towards the establishment of a new Authority, which needs broad powers to respond to our dynamic and fast-changing industry,” Proctor added. Flutter further noted that it looks forward to assessing the detailed terms of the bill, and “working constructively with the new Authority to put in place effective measures.”

Welcoming the bill’s approval, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said it was “unquestionably” a major milestone. “It is an important and necessary piece of legislation, designed to meet the challenges of gambling responsibly in 21st century Ireland,” he added.