Irish Gambling Bill praised by EGBA for ‘digital age’ modernisation

The Irish Parliament has published its long-anticipated Gambling Regulation Bill, a milestone that has been welcomed by the European Gaming and Betting Association

Following the approval by the Irish government last month, the new bill will establish a new regulatory body and is set to introduce a regulatory and licensing regime for the sector, with hopes of modernising the country’s gambling regulations. 

The EGBA also added that it hopes the new regulatory framework, which is said to bring it into line with EU member states, and the proposal to establish a gambling authority, will be “well-resourced”, has the necessary powers to tackle unlicensed gambling offers and maintain an open dialogue with the country’s licensed gambling operators, other gambling regulators and stakeholders to identify best practices.

Maarten Haijer, Secretary General, EGBA, commented: “Today is a significant milestone, and we congratulate Minister Browne and his team for bringing forward the Bill. EGBA fully supports the Irish government’s ongoing efforts to establish modern regulations that fit the digital age and bring the country’s regulatory framework into line with EU member states. 

“We look forward to the finalisation of the Bill and engaging constructively with Irish policymakers to ensure the outcome is a well-functioning system of regulation that protects the interests of the many Irish citizens who gamble safely and recreationally, sets a high level of protection for consumers and those experiencing gambling-related harm, and provides clarity and long-term predictability for the gambling sector.”

Proposed inclusions in the Gambling Regulation Bill will see new regulations for land-based and online gambling within Ireland, such as the creation of a new authority to regulate gambling and a social fund to support education and problem gambling treatment.

In addition, the Bill proposes a national self-exclusion register for online gambling, new rules for advertisements and a ban on the use of credit cards for payments relating to gambling.  

On the latter section, the EGBA stated it “fully supports” the creation of a self-exclusion register in Ireland and noted it had advocated for this previously as an “essential safety net” against gambling harm.

The Bill will now follow the Parliamentary process, with the first reading expected in the Parliament in early 2023. Subject to Parliamentary approval, the Bill is expected to become law in late 2023.

Commenting when the Irish government originally approved the publication last month, James Browne, Minister of State for Law Reform, explained: “Reforming gambling legislation and regulation in Ireland is a key commitment in our Programme for Government and Justice Plan, and has been one of my key priorities as Minister. I am pleased to have gotten the draft legislation to this point, and look forward now to it being published and brought through the Houses to enactment.

“This legislation will establish a gambling regulator which will be robust with a focus on prevention of harm to people vulnerable to problem gambling and particularly protecting children, and also a focus on enforcement of a strong, modern regulatory framework for the gambling industry.”

Adding as a warning to prospective licensees, it was added: “Operators who provide gambling activities without a gambling licence issued by the Authority, or who do not operate in accordance with the provisions of their licence could, if convicted, face up to eight years imprisonment and/or a fine at the discretion of the courts.

“Strict regulation of gambling advertising will be a priority area for the Authority. Under the legislation, advertising intended to appeal to children will be prohibited, as will advertising that promotes excessive or compulsive gambling.”