Ireland’s gambling industry is not ready for “the new rules covering the sector”, according to a private survey where only 17 percent of respondents stated they were ready to comply with the incoming Gambling Regulation Bill 2022.
The survey was carried out by the law firm Mason Hayes & Curran (MHC), which also conducted an industry webinar in conjunction with the survey.
Participants in the webinar included Sharon Byrne, the chairperson of the Irish Bookmakers Association; Helen Rhodes, a director at the UK Gambling Commission; and David Brohan, senior equity analyst at Goodbody. All echoed the same sentiment: they supported the law but in their opinion it needed “tweaks” when it came to consumer protection.
MHC carried out the survey using the 145 attendees of the webinar. Thirty percent responded that they had yet to begin making preparations for the legislation, whereas more than half said they were still in the process of making adjustments to be ready to comply.
Dermot McGirr, a partner at MHC who moderated, said: “I would expect there to be a relatively short period between the finalisation of this bill and it being brought into force.”
“95, 96, 97 percent of this bill is not going to change … the key tenants and fundamentals of it are not going to change. What may change is some of the more contentious points around public health measures as the government views them,” he told the panel.
Despite the fact that not much would change, industry participants still called for it. Brohan called the UK’s whitepaper an effective blueprint for Irish legislation.
“I think one of the very important things here is that the market post-regulation has to be economically viable,” said Brohan. “And I think that point is very important because we have to be aware of it for a lot of operators who service the Irish markets, you know, Ireland's a relatively small part of their global businesses. And if this legislation isn't framed correctly, it could either lead to operators pulling out or otherwise consumers could shift to the black market.”
The live survey during the panel also showed 53 percent of respondents viewing the legislation as too strict and 47 percent considering it not strict enough.
Byrne fell into the former category. “I think anybody you speak to will know someone that has gone to a pub, and you see a bookie in the corner, and he set up with a laptop or is or a telly or he’s ringing in bets or he's keeping it for himself, or the barman is keeping it for himself and there are no social protection measures there. There's no age verification there. There's no tax being paid.”
She concluded that if the bill is left as it is, gamblers will continue to visit the unregulated corners of pubs rather than use the regulated market.
Extern Ireland, a social justice charity, has no time for lack of preparation or tweaks and tweeted on Wednesday (October 25) that “the Gambling Control Bill was put forth in July 2013, and it's simply unacceptable that the gambling industry remains unprepared for regulation”.
The gambling bill is expected to finish its journey through the Oireachtas (parliament) early in 2024, according to the Department of Justice.