The new centralized Irish gambling regulator has finally started to take shape but won’t be set up before late 2020. Officials have confirmed that the regulator may need as many as 18 months to start functioning as it would need legislative approvals before it could start issuing gambling licenses and permits in the country. The legislation will also give it powers to impose fines and manage the quickly expanding online gambling industry.
Betting companies are currently receiving their license from the Revenue Commissioners in Ireland as there is no independent body taking care of consumer protection measures and provide industry oversight in the country. A new government study suggests that the new Irish regulator will be similar to the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) which regulates the UK National Lottery in Great Britain region alongside licensing authorities while regulating commercial gambling activities.
David Stanton, the Minister of State, made the announcement about the regulator this week, stating that gambling should be a “safe, fair and entertaining activity for the majority of those who choose to take part.” He is also seeking player protections while limiting the harmful effects of gambling on young people who are more prone to addiction.
The Inter-Departmental Working (IDW) Group on the Future Licensing and Regulation of Gambling released a series of Cabinet-approved recommendations for the new regulator recently. They seek to change the current regulations which are based on the Gaming and Lotteries Act of 1956 and other regulations passed in 2013. None of the existing rules accommodate recent changes in gambling technology and the rise of online gambling.
Recommendations for new rules include restricting the minimum gambling age to 18 years. These restrictions can also apply to online play-for-free games which are popular among teenagers. Gambling offers and ads will not be directed at those under 18 years. However, for these policies to work, the age verification systems should be effective.
The new regulator will oversee both land and online gambling and will have authority to monitor ads, sponsorships as well as promotion. It will also enforce compliance and conduct on-site inspections. Licensed operators will have to pay a fee which will contribute to a fund that pays for the operations of the regulator. Other recommendations include protections for at-risk problem gamblers and the creation of a sports betting integrity unit that will oversee gambling on sporting events.
The Irish Cabinet has approved the publishing of the Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill 2019 which will introduce new stake and prize limits, make 18 years the minimum age of participation and creates new rules for the application of licenses and permits. These recommendations follow a Department of Health (DOH) survey that suggests that 1/10th of 15 to 17-year-old teens in Ireland gambled illegally in the past 12 months. Stanton also expressed his concerns for underage gambling in a recent statement.
The Irish gambling market is worth €6 billion to €8 billion, and 2/3rd of the population has gambled in the last 12 months, according to the DOH study.