Senators discussed the introduction of Ireland’s independent gambling regulator, which is scheduled for 2023, in the Irish Oireachtas.
The government will reform Irish gambling laws in 2021 under the terms of the ‘Interim Gaming and Lotteries Act,’ which was passed in December 2020, with the aim of modernising current legislation that dates back to 1931 and 1956.
Defining the primary responsibilities
Deputy James Browne, Minister of State at the Department of Justice, opened the discussion by emphasising the importance of defining the primary responsibilities of an independent regulatory agency that would regulate Irish gambling in 2023.
Deputy Browne, speaking to the Seanad Éireann, argued that Ireland’s existing regulatory system is fragmented because it is “stretched broadly across a spectrum of departments and agencies,” resulting in “an inconsistent regulatory climate.”
The Deputy went on to say that: “The new regulator will, when fully operational, assume all of the current gambling licensing and regulatory responsibilities as well as new and more extensive enforcement duties.”
He went on to explain the scope of the regulator to Senators, saying: “When it is established, the regulator will have the necessary enforcement powers for licensing and powers to take action where individuals or operators fail to follow rules and regulations.
“Its key objectives will be as follows: to prevent gambling from being a source or support to crime; to ensure that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way for companies to make decisions in certainty; and to require the promotion of safe and responsible gambling, and to combat problem gambling.”
However, when answering Senators’ questions, some argued that the independent regulatory body should be formed sooner rather than later in 2023.
Operational by 2023
Senator Alice-Mary Higgins, an Independent from Dublin, believes the regulator should be operational by 2023, citing the “perfect storm” generated by the pandemic for those suffering from problem gambling-related damage.
Senator Higgins remarked: “Lack of regulation means we are getting all-hours and all-locations advertising, which is a concern. We know we can take action to address this, as we did when we placed constraints in legislation on the advertising and sale of alcohol.”
Other Senators have voiced their views, outlining what they think the new regulator’s authority and duties should be.
Senator Fiona O’Loughlin of Fianna Fáil for Kildare said: “The regulator should cover the industry, issue fines, conduct research and operate a social fund funded by the industry to help individuals who are suffering from gambling addiction.”
Enhanced consumer protection
She added: “A modern and effectively regulated gambling environment must provide enhanced consumer protection for players while limiting to the greatest extent possible the harmful effects on young people and those who may be susceptible to addiction.”