THE Cabinet has approved the publication of new legislation that will overhaul the way gambling is regulated and advertised in Ireland.
The Gambling Regulation Bill will provide for a modernisation of the licensing and regulation of gambling, and deal with the impact of technology on an industry which increasingly plays out online. It is, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said, a “long awaited and much needed new bill”.
Here is what we can expect from the new law.
The most tangible impacts will be a new watershed that will ban gambling advertising between 5.30am and 9pm each day. Advertising will also be prohibited online unless a person opts into receiving adverts.
There will be a prohibition on children being in any premises where gambling takes place and restrictions on gambling advertising on events involving children.
In practical terms, Minister of State James Browne explained that any sports clubs with underage teams will not be able to have sponsorship deals with gambling companies.
UK and international broadcasters will also not be allowed to carry gambling advertising for events it broadcasts in Ireland, but the Government will not be able to ban advertising hoardings that may be on display at sports stadiums.
Inducements to entice adults to gamble will be banned. These include free hospitality, VIP treatment, free bets and special officers. There will also be a ban on using credit cards to gamble and using any type of credit facilities to gamble.
Any advertising that promotes excessive or compulsive gambling will also be banned. There will also be an ban on cash machines in bookies but this will not extend to racetracks as they provide other services like food and drink.
This legislation does not apply to the National Lottery
The legislation will establish a new regulator, the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland, which will be focused on public safety and well-being.
Its remit will cover gambling online and in person and it will have powers to regulate advertising, gambling websites and apps.
The regulator will be able to request information from companies, monitor compliance, conduct inspections, investigate any suspected or actual breaches of the law.
Any companies which have either a physical or online presence in Ireland have to register with the authority. There will also be three types of licences: business to consumer gaming, betting and lottery licences, business to business licences, and gambling licences for charitable or philanthropic causes.
The authority will also run a National Gambling Exclusion Register so that any person who decides they have a gambling problem can add their details to the register to self exclude. All companies will have to ensure this person is excluded from their services and direct them to services that can help.
In this vein, there will also be a levy – to be determined by the regulator – on the industry to fund a social impact fund. It will be used to finance initiatives to reduce problem gambling and support awareness–raising and educational measures.
"There are of course many people in our country who enjoy a bet but we must acknowledge and safeguard against the truly awful impact gambling does have on some people, families and communities,” the Taoiseach said.
Any operator who provides gambling activities without a licence issued by the authority or who does not operate in accordance with their licence could, if convicted, face up to eight years imprisonment or a fine that will be at the discretion of the courts.
Regulatory fines will be up to €20million or 10pc of turnover, whichever is higher. The regulator will also be able to get an internet service provider to take down any unlicensed advertising online.
Mr Browne, who is leading on the bill, already appointed the chief executive designate Anne Marie Caulfield, the former director of the Residential Tenancies Board, last September.
Her appointment, following an open, international competition run by the Public Appointments Service, is aimed at minimising the time required between the enactment of the legislation and the date the regulator will be ready to, as Browne said today, “hit the ground running”.
Depending on how quickly the legislative process is moved through the Dáil, Seanad and Oireachtas Justice Committee, the Government hopes it can become operational next year.
Mr Browne admitted he had not consulted with the industry before finalising the legislation published today and it is likely to have plenty to say about it.