Ireland rubber stamps passage of Interim Gaming and Lotteries Act

Ireland has issued the green-light to its ‘Interim Gaming and Lotteries Act’, which establishes the foundations for a planned sweeping reform of the nation’s gambling laws next year.

This will provide a long-awaited modernisation of existing legislation for the sector that dates back to 1931 and 1956, updating codes and standards for the digital age and modern consumer. 

The Dáil has described the interim measures as a means of supporting the ‘better promotion of local gaming and lottery activity’, with James Browne, minister of state with special responsibility for gambling regulation, praising the step towards ‘modern, sensible and effective’ regulations.

“Gambling is a large and evolving industry. It must be the subject of a modern, sensible and effective licensing and regulatory approach. My Department is now engaged in the drafting of a general scheme of a new Bill to provide for that comprehensive reform,” he stated.

“I was also pleased to secure ‘seed funding’ of €200,000 for the new regulator as part of the justice allocation in Budget 2021.”

The Act will focus on streamlining the application process for lottery and gambling permits, as well as the application process for smaller-scale gaming and lottery activity.

Furthermore, it will also set out a minimum age of 18 years old for all licensed gambling products, standardising various measures from across the betting, gaming and lottery industries.

Last year, the Irish government’s proposals to establish an independent gambling regulator to oversee the licencing of all gambling operators received industry-wide backing.

However, following the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the creation of an Irish gambling regulator has been delayed until ‘at least 2021.

But despite the government’s intentions to modernise Ireland’s gambling laws, questions still remain as to how the government will establish key regulatory agencies which will govern the industry, and allocate resources to support health and treatment services to prevent problem gambling.

Since 2008, consecutive governments have been criticised for their inability to reform the nation’s laws despite bi-partisan support, with Ireland being the only EU member state to maintain no digital regulatory frameworks for online gambling.

In 2013, the country’s Department of Justice demanded that Enda Kenny’s government needed to urgently reform the nation’s gambling controls, as Irish courts could not convict criminal offences related to online gambling under laws established during the 1950s.