Ireland Gaming Operators Face Jail Time for Breaking Rules Under New Law

Posted on: November 15, 2022, 08:23h. 

Last updated on: November 16, 2022, 06:59h.

If Ireland’s government moves favorably on a new bill Tuesday, gambling ads on TV and radio will face new restrictions. At the same time, the first Gambling Regulation Bill suggests sending gambling operators who violate the rules to prison for up to eight years.

Ireland government
The headquarters of the Government of Ireland, in Dublin, Ireland. The government has approved new legislation for online and land-based gaming operators in the country. (Image: Flickr)

Ireland recently introduced its first gambling regulator, the Gambling Regulatory Authority (GRA). The government isn’t wasting time setting up the gaming space’s legal framework.

Changes are coming to the industry, but the outcome rests on Tuesday’s vote. The government has approved the new bill but could still make changes before it goes live.

In line with what other countries are considering, Ireland will ban all TV and radio gambling ads from 5:30 A.M. to 9 P.M. However, unlike other jurisdictions, Ireland might implement stricter controls for violators.

Any breach during the blackout period will result in a large fine and, in some cases, a suspension or withdrawal of the operator’s license.

Watershed for Gambling Ads

Online gambling ads are under fire, as well. The Gambling Regulation Bill stipulates that all Irish consumers have to opt in before seeing them.

Inducements to attract new users have been a staple of online gaming operators, but they won’t be in Ireland. The legislation bans all incentives, including VIP programs, free bets, and special offers.

The goal of the changes is the same as it is everywhere else – to protect children and problem gamblers. If the newly formed GRA uncovers a violation, operators can expect to pay heavily. Fines can be €20 million (US$20,782) or 10% of the operator’s total revenue.

Land-based operators will have to prepare for additional changes as well. The gambling bill tasks the GRA with establishing guidelines on how these operations will have to reduce their storefront advertising to minimize gambling exposure.

The legislation also includes the creation of a national gambling exclusion registry. The GRA will require all gambling operators in Ireland to register with the regulator to properly maintain the list. To self-exclude, a person with a gambling problem can add his or her details to the database, and all companies will have to ensure that the person is excluded.

Prison Time for Violators

The bill will be the most comprehensive and extensive legislation ever to regulate gambling in Ireland. It will also fundamentally alter the rules for all gambling in Ireland, including online and physical gambling.

There is a call for operators to fund gambling research programs and treatment. This is a standard measure in many countries, although Ireland hasn’t yet pinpointed how much money it might collect or how it will be used.

In addition to monetary fines, gambling companies that fail to protect children will also be subject to punitive sanctions. This includes imprisonment of up to eight years under the GRA guidelines.

It isn’t clear how that might work. Because the operator cannot be sent to prison, a company executive must be the proxy. This could mean a CEO or COO may be liable for any violation.

If the legislation is approved Tuesday morning, it could take effect in the first half of next year. This past September, Ireland appointed Anne Marie Caulfield as the head of the GRA. However, she has no official authority until the bill’s final approval and subsequent publication.