Ireland’s Gambling Control Bill could finally pass with new independent regulator proposal

  • Ministers want an independent agency body to oversee gambling
  • Proposal could encourage action on stalled Irish gaming laws

Ministers in Ireland have put forward proposals for an independent regulatory body that would handle all aspects of gambling control.

Ireland is looking to shore up its gambling industry with the introduction of a regulator.
Ireland is looking to shore up its gambling industry with the introduction of a regulator.

If successful, the proposals could help a 2013 gambling bill move forward and become law – giving Irish operators some legal clarity and putting them on a fair footing against their internationally licensed rivals.

Debate continues over gambling control

The first draft of the Gambling Control Bill was raised back in 2013, when lawmakers were seeking to create some order in the country’s gambling markets. In the absence of a new law for modern gamblers, operators and authorities tend to fall back on the Gaming and Lotteries Act of 1956 – but this inconsistent set of laws often creates confusion for players and operators.

For example, casinos are outlawed in Ireland, but private clubs are allowed to operate casino games, like roulette and blackjack in much the same way that a casino venue would.

Bets themselves are not strictly prohibited, but rather all gambling debts are viewed as null and void under this law. “Every contract by way of gaming or wagering is void,” states the 1956 act.

Modern operators and lawmakers have therefore sought to update the existing laws with a new gambling regulation act – the Gambling Control Bill. However, this piece of legislation has frequently hit stumbling blocks since it was introduced in 2013, and to this day it has failed to make progress beyond the Cabinet drafting stage.

Ministry seeks to shift regulatory authority

The latest proposed change to the Gambling Control Bill has come from inside the Ministry of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, led by Minister David Stanton.

Stanton is seeking Cabinet approval to put his amendment up before members in a key vote. This could close some of the obstacles the gambling law has faced and get it ready for fresh debate within the Irish house.

The change would move responsibility for gambling regulation away from the Department of Justice.

Instead, a independent body would handle issues of gaming control. Much like the UK’s Gambling Commission, the new agency would take authority over operator advertising and gaming content, investigate issues affecting player safety, handle problem gambling reduction initiatives, and commission research into different areas of the gaming industry.

Irish operators including Boylesports and Paddy Power will welcome the news that action is being taken. Both have joined other Irish gambling services in calling for movement on the stagnating gaming law.

Without clarity for native operators, they are unable to fairly compete with their international rivals and without a consistent regulator overseeing operations, risks remain for players and providers in the Irish gambling market.

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