Ireland has finally published its long-awaited General Scheme of Gambling Regulation Bill, after it was approved by the government earlier this week.
Free bets, VIPs and “preferential treatment” would be banned under the scheme, which also includes a commitment to establish the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland and give it powers to regulate advertising, gambling websites and apps.
The government also intends to impose a credit card gambling ban, spending limits where practicable and new requirements around warnings and messaging of gambling products.
The General Scheme has now been submitted to the Parliamentary Counsel and the Oireachtas Justice Committee for pre-legislative scrutiny.
“We all accept that the current legislative framework is fragmented, outdated, lacks a coherent licensing and regulatory approach and is in need of significant reform,” James Browne TD, the minister of state for law reform, youth justice and immigration, said announcing the scheme.
Under the legislation, a new gambling authority will be operational by 2024 and have the powers to fine non-compliant operators for licence breaches.
Individuals that breach the legislation face up to a €20m fine, while companies risk a fine of up to €20m or 10 percent of relevant turnover in a financial year.
The regulator will also be given other powers, such as the ability to suspend and revoke licences, block online access to a provider’s services, freeze bank accounts and other assets, and to block payments.
There will be three broad categories of licence: a business to consumer category; a business to business category; and a specific category of licence to regulate charitable and philanthropic gambling.
Ireland also intends to create a “Social Impact Fund” to fund research, raise awareness of problem gambling and to support problem gambling treatment.
The country’s 2022 budget allocated €500,000 to primarily appoint a CEO of the new regulator.
Ireland already put aside €200,000 in its 2021 budget for “seed funding”, covering accommodation and other professional services.
An independent appeal system will be created for licence holders, applicants for licences and consumers.
Gambling advertising across all platforms will be fully under the remit of the new regulator.
The regulator will be able to “issue codes, tied to enforceable sanctions for breach of terms and conditions of a licence, to address advertising, and to regulate promotions and sponsorship by licence holders”, according to the justice department.
The times and frequency at which gambling advertising can appear will be restricted and the use of children or elements which may appeal to children will be banned.