The Republic of Ireland is finally moving forward with a plan to set up a centralized gambling regulator, but it may not be in place until late next year.
Officials confirmed it may take up to 18 months to enact, given that legislation must be approved before the authority can issue gambling licenses and permits, as well as impose fines, at a time when the industry is expanding online.
Late to the Regulating Party
Currently, betting companies receive a license from the Irish Revenue Commissioners, but no independent regulator provides oversight or protects consumers.
As envisioned by a new government study, the regulator may be like the existing UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), which regulates commercial gambling and the UK National Lottery in Great Britain in partnership with licensing authorities.
When making the announcement this week, David Stanton — the Minister of State with responsibility for gambling regulation — said he wants gambling to be a “safe, fair and entertaining activity for the majority of those who choose to take part.”
He also wants more “protection for players” and to limit “the harmful effects on young people and those who may be susceptible to addiction.”
Minimum Age To Gamble
Recommendations include restricting gambling to those who are at least 18 years old, as well as online sites that do not have play-for-free games, which tend to draw in teens. Gambling ads and promotional offers should not be directed at those under 18, the study says, and age verification systems must be in place and effective.
The regulator would oversee online and land gambling, as well as monitor ads, promotions and sponsorships. They would also enforce compliance via on-site inspections. A fund focusing on problem gambling would be paid for through fees from licensed operators. There are also protections for at-risk problem gamblers among the recommendations.
A sports betting integrity unit would scrutinize gambling on sporting events, as it relates to operators.
The recommendations were released this week by the Inter-Departmental Working Group on the Future Licensing and Regulation of Gambling and approved by the Cabinet.
Many current regulations date back to the Gaming and Lotteries Act of 1956 and regulations approved in 2013, and do not reflect recent changes in gambling and available technology.
Lottery Rules To Be Updated
The Irish Cabinet has also approved the publishing of the Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill 2019, which updates local gaming and lottery rules, including stake and prize limits, how to apply for permits and licenses, and 18 as the minimum age to participate.
The recommendation comes the same month that the Department of Health (DOH) released a survey that shows one-tenth of the population in Ireland between 15 and 17 years-old, gambled illegally during a 12-month period.
“The issue of underage gambling is one that I am particularly anxious to address,” Stanton said in a statement. Also, he wants to see the Tote — a common betting pool for horse racing in Ireland — limited to those 18 years old and above.
The bill also increases the stake and prize limits to €10 ($11) and €750 ($847) respectively.
The annual Irish gambling market is estimated at between €6 billion ($6.8 billion) and €8 billion ($9 billion). And two-thirds of the population in Ireland have gambled in last 12 months, according to a recent DOH study.