Irish Gambling Bill Should Be More Restrictive, Committee Says

May 19, 2022
Ireland’s General Scheme of the Gambling Regulation Bill should include many more restrictions and consumer safeguards, including a pre-watershed gambling advertising ban, according to a joint parliamentary committee.


Ireland’s General Scheme of the Gambling Regulation Bill should include many more restrictions and consumer safeguards, including a pre-watershed gambling advertising ban, according to a joint parliamentary committee.

The Joint Committee on Justice report is part of the pre-legislative scrutiny process for the bill and includes recommendations for changes in 16 key areas.

Committee head James Lawless said the report, which was released on Wednesday (May 18), “will help to inform the legislative process and make a valuable contribution to the forthcoming legislation”.

Apart from banning all gambling advertising before 9pm, the report calls for an evaluation into how sports advertising and gambling advertising could be “decoupled, particularly in terms of sports advertisements aimed at young people”.

The report supports the introduction of affordability checks, as well as bans on gambling with credit cards, fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) and gambling in pubs.

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) welcomed the report as an “important milestone in Ireland’s efforts to establish a modern gambling regulation”.

In particular, the EGBA praised the report’s recommendations that an incoming gambling authority should publish regular data about Ireland’s gambling market and that regulator codes of conduct should apply to all operators.

EGBA secretary-general Maarten Haijer said a “collaborative approach is crucially important”, but warned there is “no need to completely reinvent the wheel: most EU member states already have well-established gambling regulations, and we encourage the Irish authorities to look to these for best practices”.

Irish Bookmakers Association chairperson Sharon Byrne told VIXIO GamblingCompliance that the report is welcomed and that the association's members have long supported the establishment of a regulatory authority, a ban on credit card betting and pre-watershed advertising restrictions.

“We believe it is vital that the new authority is allowed to introduce evidence-led restrictions and guidelines, which will ensure a high level of customer protection and standards across all operators, and also provide a level playing field for operators in the sector to operate within,” she said.

Other recommendations include:

  • Limits on all gambling products, stakes, prizes and deposits, including online.
  • A scheme of escalating fines for operators that would withdraw licences for any breach of the self-exclusion register.
  • Discouraging local governments from awarding multiple licences for land-based betting due to potential health impacts.
  • Introducing a Domain Name System (DNS) to block access to unlicensed sites and automated software to complete online verification checks.

To make up for the absence of an online self-exclusion register, the committee wants GAMSTOP, the UK’s self-exclusion database, to extend its services to Ireland.

As part of its pre-legislative scrutiny, the committee has held several meetings with stakeholders, including operators, to collect feedback on the proposed legislation. The submissions from these stakeholders are included in the report.

The report will be assessed by James Browne, minister of state at the Department of Justice.

Gambling advertising was a key concern during the committee's second public hearing in March, with Barry Grant, an addiction counsellor and project manager at Extern Problem Gambling, calling for a complete ban.

“Some very progressive recommendations in the newly published Justice Committee report on the Gambling Regulation Bill. It is great to see further movement on the progress of the bill and dedication to preventing gambling harm,” Grant said on social media.

On April 19, 2021, the Labour Party introduced the Gambling (Prohibition of Advertising) Bill 2021, which would restrict gambling advertising. The bill places a ban on all gambling ads across digital, print and broadcast media, but exempts sponsorship.

In March, the bill passed its second stage in Seanad Éireann (the Senate), but it has not made progress since then.

The General Scheme of the Bill was first published by the government on October 21, 2021.

The bill is intended to modernise the approach to the licensing of gambling in Ireland and to set out a framework and legislative basis for the creation of the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland, an independent, statutory body.

Applications for heading up the long-awaited regulator closed on March 21. The Ministry of Justice recently told VIXIO that the regulator should be established and operational by 2023.

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