Malta has submitted two separate notifications to the European Commission flagging what it considers to be a host of regulatory barriers that may be a “cause for concern” in Ireland’s Gambling Regulation Bill 2022.
The notifications were published by the commission on December 5.
One of the notifications states that Malta “considers the collective effects of the Draft Bill to be a threat to the freedom to provide services”.
“This is due to such restrictions not necessarily fulfilling the principles of proportionality, consistency, and non-discrimination. Therefore, Malta calls upon the Irish Government to reconsider the outlined restrictions on the freedom to provide services,” it states.
This notification questions the proportionality of the maximum relevant payment and maximum winnings.
Malta believes “Ireland has not provided adequate justification” in its bill or impact assessment to justify these restrictions, adding that this “may be considered disproportionate and potentially constitute an unjustified breach of the freedom to provide services”.
The notification warns these restrictions “will not serve to channel players from the unregulated market, and therefore not satisfy the objective of consumer protection”.
Additionally, when it comes to a requirement in the draft law to require a business-to-business (B2B) gambling licence, Malta fears some businesses will be required to run checks and controls that are already imposed on them elsewhere in the EU, meaning it "may constitute administrative burdens for gaming operators which are already duly licensed to provide such services in other member states".
Another notification, numbered message 103, calls on the Irish government to provide “legal clarity and certainty”, as well as “ensure compliance with EU law”.
This notification questions whether a list of “relevant games” will be published by the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland.
Additionally, Malta wants clarity regarding if advertising restrictions will apply to the National lottery.
Ireland's Department of Justice has not yet responded to a request from Vixio to comment.
Concerns have previously been raised around the drafting of the law.
Irish senator Mark Wall, the Labour Party sports spokesperson, has been calling on the government to introduce stricter advertising regulations.
Separately, Regulus Partners said the law had “serious drafting issues", highlighting five examples of “prescriptive and unclear drafting” that were largely not altered or removed in successive drafts.
These include sections in the law on restricting betting markets, advertising restrictions, an obligation not to offer inducements and an obligation not to provide relevant gambling activity by remote means at certain times.
More recently, a county council wrote to minister James Browne TD, who is in charge of gambling policy, to highlight how local charities will be adversely affected by the new gambling advertising restrictions.
Lottoland vice president Mike Kirwan has also called on Browne to “re-engage” with the sector and “listen to our concerns” after Ireland Thinks undertook a study of attitudes in the country on the incoming regulations.
The research found that despite 75 percent of respondents backing plans to introduce new regulations, 19 percent of existing bettors would seek alternative methods of gambling in the event that it is restricted in Ireland.
According to the Department of Justice, the gambling bill is expected to finish its journey through the Oireachtas (parliament) early in 2024.