Ireland Plans to Create a Centralized Gambling Regulator in 2020
The Republic of Ireland could have a centralized gambling regulator by 2020, if David Stanton has his way. In an announcement this week, the Irish Minister of State for Equality, Immigration, and Integration said he wants to create an agency modeled on the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).
David Stanton said it could take 18 months to stand up such a regulator. In the United Kingdom, the UKGC oversees commercial gambling operators and the UK National Lottery.
The Minister of State for Equality, Immigration, and Integration — which is part of the Justice and Equality Department — said he wants Irish gambling to be “safe, fair and entertaining activity for the majority of those who choose to take part.”
Stanton added that protection of players is his main goal, but he wants the proposed Irish Gambling Commission to focus particularly on “the harmful effects on young people and those who may be susceptible to addiction.
Irish Underage Gambling a Focus
Under Stanton’s mandate, the national gambling commission would restrict gambling to those who are 18 years old or older. The age limit would apply to land-based casinos and online gaming sites. Children would be able to use sites that have play-for-free games, but regulators would ban ads that target children on those sites.
The Irish regulator would police gambling ads and promotional offers that are directed at children under 18, which Stanton said was the recommendation of a study published last year by the Republic of Ireland’s government.
In particular, the Minister of State said he wanted to focus on the issue of underage gambling. David Stanton added that cutting-edge age verification systems would need to be “in place and effective”.
The Department of Health (DOH) released a survey earlier this year that suggested 10% of Irish children between the ages of 15 and 17 gambled illegally in a year’s time. Saying he expects Tote betting to be limited to 18-and-over residents, Stanton added, “The issue of underage gambling is one that I am particularly anxious to address.”
Gaming and Lotteries Act of 1956
Many of the Republic of Ireland’s gaming laws currently hearken back to the Gaming and Lotteries Act of 1956, so they do not reflect 21st century sensibilities or technological innovations. Ireland updated some of its gambling laws in 2013, but a report released in 2018 suggested that a comprehensive update is needed.
Prior to his re-election last year, President Michael D. Higgins called for significant reforms to Ireland’s gambling statutes. While Higgins’ remarks were seen by many as mere campaign promises, David Stanton’s remarks this week appear to reveal a plan to follow through on those promises.
Irish Gambling Commission to Oversee, Enforce Laws
As part of the implementation program, the Irish regulator would have the authority to compel compliance. It would be able to make on-site inspections, while also monitoring ads, promotions, and sponsorships on an ongoing basis.
Also, the regulator would set up a fund to focus on Irish problem gambling, presumably with a hotline, helpline, and other resources to aid problem gamblers and their families. The fund would be paid from licensing fees charged to licensed gambling operators.
Self-Exclusion List Not Mentioned
The Minister of State for Equality did not give details on the protections for at-risk problem gamblers.
For instance, Stanton did not mention whether a modern self-exclusion registry would be instituted and required, though self-exclusion lists are a part of responsible gambling initiatives in all forward-thinking European nations (that is, 14 of 28 EU members).
“Future Licensing and Regulation of Gambling”
David Stanton’s role as a sub-cabinet minister might make one wonder if his intentions have much force, but his remarks came on the heels of a report by the “Inter-Departmental Working Group on the Future Licensing and Regulation of Gambling” — a report which was endorsed by the Irish cabinet. Stanton appears to have the mandate to institute an Irish Gambling Commission (or whatever it will be named). Besides, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also gave 18 months as a time table for an Irish gambling regulatory agency.
Not everything is bad news for the tote. Because the laws are relatively antiquated, so are the stake and prize limits for Irish racing. The 2020 Irish gambling laws update would raise stakes and prize limits to €10 ($11) and €750 ($847), respectively.