The scope of a ‘extremely powerful’ gambling regulator in the Republic of Ireland has been described by James Browne, the country’s Minister of State for Justice, but a Labour Senator has called for action to be taken sooner.
According to The Irish Times, Browne stated that “comprehensive legislation” will support the development and operation of a “extremely powerful” regulator, which will be operational by the end of 2021 and will focus primarily on public health and wellness.
The Minister went on to say that legislation to create the regulator will be introduced in September, adding that the watchdog will employ 100 people and have the authority to develop laws and codes of conduct, as well as the ability to levy fines in situations of non-compliance.
In 2021, Irish legislators passed the ‘Interim Gaming and Lotteries Act,’ with the primary goal of modernising the country’s gaming legislation, which dates back to 1931 and 1956.
“It’s really important to understand that it is not simply a regulator but they will have a public health remit as their primary focus in every decision and recommendation they will make,” Browne remarked.
Browne, speaking to the Seanad Éireann earlier this year, claimed that Ireland’s regulatory control is “inconsistent” and fragmented since it is “spread widely over a range of departments and agencies.”
The regulator will be chosen by the end of this year, according to existing arrangements. Senator Mark Wall of the Irish Labour Party, on the other hand, has argued that Ireland “cannot wait that long to ban gambling advertising,” while also criticising the lack of a betting marketing watershed.
“What really disturbs me most is that there is no watershed on gambling advertising in this country,” the Kildare Senator commented. “And our children and young adults are being exposed to a highly addictive behaviour.
“We have so many stories of children as young as six, especially when they were being homeschooled, asking their parents what these ads were all about.”
World’s 7th biggest spenders on gambling per head
Wall went on to say that Ireland’s annual average gaming spend of €9.8 billion made the country “the world’s 7th biggest spenders on gambling per head,” according to Wall.
In February of this year, the Irish Labour Party proposed the Gambling (Prohibition of Advertising) Bill 2021 in the Oireachtas, with the goal of enacting a blanket ban on television gambling commercials.
Two of Ireland’s largest sporting bodies, the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and the Gaelic Players Association (GPA), have reiterated these calls, arguing for a ban on advertising as well as a general separation of sports and betting.
Wall went on to say that he gets calls from constituents who “Simply want to be able to watch their favourite sport without having to wade through advertisement after advertisement encouraging them to gamble.”
In a statement made last weekend, President of Ireland Michael D Higgins – a member of the Labour Party until his election as head of state in 2011 – called sports betting a “scourge” and criticised “dangerous” gambling advertising.
Effectively banning advertising
Due to a full sports calendar of daily horse racing and both domestic and foreign top-flight competitions televised on weekends, Browne commented that it would be ‘challenging to find a way of effectively banning advertising where we’re having so much coming in from other countries.’
He did say, though, that Irish officials will be watching the outcome of the UK gaming review, which he said will “certainly put the issue of sponsorship of sport on the table.”
Across the Irish Sea, the subject of betting corporations sponsoring sports has become a hot topic in the discussion over the revision of the 2005 Gambling Act.
A prospective prohibition on partnerships between professional sports teams and operators has been dubbed “the most likely outcome” of the investigation, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his cabinet allegedly supporting the idea.