New rules

Ireland files bill to create gambling regulator, ban free bets and credit card wagering

Minister of State at the Department of Justice James Browne, who announced the legislation.
Reading time 2:37 min
The legislation sets out provisions for a new regulator for the industry and introduces player protection measures. Providers can be fined up to $23.2M or 10% of their turnover if they break the rules. Offering free bets, inciting a person to keep gambling, offering credit or loans to players, and VIP services will all be banned. The regulator will have the power to suspend or revoke licenses, control gambling advertising and tackle money laundering. It could be operational by 2023.

New legislation to regulate Ireland’s gambling industry has been published by the government, as Minister of State at the Department of Justice James Browne launched the heads of the new bill this week. The laws will aim at replacing older ones, some of them stretching back to the 1930s, which have been described as “outdated.”

Titled the General Scheme of the Gambling Regulation, the bill was created taking into account input from experts and after analyzing the current gambling landscape in the country. The legislation sets out provisions for a new regulator for the industry, the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland, and also introduces new player protection measures.

“The publication of the general scheme is an important milestone towards the effective regulation of gambling in Ireland under the new, independent statutory body – the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland,” said Browne.

Providers breaking the rules introduced by the state’s first gambling regulator can be fined up to $23.2 million, or 10% of their turnover. According to the text, offering free bets will be banned, as well as attempts to incite a person to keep gambling. Offering credit or a loan to players won’t be allowed as well.

The new laws give the regulator the authority and power to suspend or revoke licenses and to administer financial sanctions. It will also have the option to block remote or online access to a provider’s service in the country, or completely shut down certain operations. The regulator will too be able to block or freeze bank accounts, assets and payments.

Penalizing players by refusing bets or reducing winnings is also prohibited, as well as having an ATM on licensed gambling premises. Moreover, licensees must clearly display terms and conditions – including applicable odds on offer for events – to both online and in-person players.

Licensees are asked to promote safer gambling awareness and include warnings on potential gambling risks, to be displayed on all screens in each licensed premises and all receipts and documents provided. Breaching player protection measures could lead operators to be fined or have their license revoked.

In addition to having the sole power on granting, revoking and renewing licenses, the regulator will also control gambling advertising and regulate all gambling activities and services. A new code on gambling advertising will set out the times and frequency at which gambling ads can appear on television, radio and other media platforms each day.

The regulator will also implement features to tackle money laundering, having the power to investigate suspicious activity, instigating prosecutions and imposing sanctions. I will also maintain a register of all licensed gambling operators.

“We all accept that the current legislative framework is fragmented, outdated, lacks a coherent licensing and regulatory approach, and is in need of significant reform,” added Browne. “Now is the time to finally address this issue comprehensively, once and for all.”

The bill will now be sent to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel for drafting, and to the Oireachtas Justice Committee for review. Browne said a CEO will be designated to the new authority, a role which is set to be filled by Christmas or early next year.

“The aim of putting a CEO designate in place is to help guide and establish the authority, so that when the legislation is passed both are in situ at the same time,” Browne stated. The independent gambling regulator is expected to become operational in 2023.

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