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Ireland welcomes new gambling laws restricting Ads

Ireland gambling industry overhaul

Ireland’s gambling industry will experience a major overhaul as the government signs off on new, strict gambling laws passed by the Cabinet aimed at protecting children, consumers and problem gamblers. The Gambling Regulation Bill is coming after gambling legislation in the country has been unchanged going as far back as 1931. The Bill is set to become fully operational by 2023, depending on how soon it is enacted.

One of the provisions of the bill is its ban on gambling advertisements on television, including satellite carriers like Sky Sports, between the hours of 5.30am and 9pm every day to curb children being exposed to gambling at an early age. In light of this, the bill prohibits children less than 18 years from entering gambling establishments, either alone or in the company of an adult. It also bans all gambling advertisements involving children or intended for children which promotes excessive gambling while providing protective measures against them accessing remote or online gambling. In the case of a sports team having a junior team, it cannot be sponsored by a gambling operator.

Furthermore, according to the bill, gambling companies will no longer be able to advertise on social media as it is now illegal to do so. Consumers will now have to ‘opt-in’ before getting gambling advertisements. Gambling operators are banned from inducing consumers with ‘VIP’ treatments such as free hospitality, free bets and other promotions. Meanwhile, credit card gaming and placement of ATMs near bookies will no longer be allowed.

The bill sets up a Social Impact Fund that will educate, raise awareness and treat problem gamblers across the country. The fund will be sourced from a mandatory levy on commercial gambling companies in the country. It also sets up a national exclusion register – a first in the country – to help problem gamblers looking to be free from their addiction.

  • READ: Irish Gambling Regulation Bill Receives Approval
  • Perhaps the most important provision in the bill is the creation of the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland. The GRA is a seven-member body saddled with the task of enforcing all the provisions in the bill and doling out appropriate penalties where necessary. Some of the penalties in the regulator’s arsenal for erring operators include fines of up to €20 million and maximum prison sentences of eight years, in extreme cases, among many others. For erring online gambling operators based outside Ireland, the regulator has the power to instruct the Irish Internet Service Provider (ISP) to block the site from being active in the country.

    The regulator, which is set to begin work as soon as the bill becomes law, already, has a chief in person of Anne Marie Caulfield, former chief of the Residential Tenancies Board. Ms. Caulfield was appointed in early September and recruitment for the body is already underway.

    The Gambling Regulation Bill essentially makes new rules concerning gambling advertising and sponsorship across all media, while changing how licensing is being done. The bill is seen by many as the most comprehensive and progressive gambling legislation in the nation’s history.

    “The bill hits all the right notes but the devil really is in the details and it is laying it onto the authority,” said Prof O’Gara, a clinical professor of psychiatry at University College, Dublin.

    “I wish the authority really well but they are up to a huge task for a public office in my view. I cannot think of any public office where there is going to be such a task. It is a medical, public health and social justice issue all entwined in one.”

    According to recent data, the gambling industry in Ireland is worth €8 billion per year while as many as 125,000 people are termed “at-risk” gamblers. These figures necessitated the new “draconian” law spearheaded by Mr. James Browne, the Minister of State for Law Reform. Bookmakers in the country are expected to start lobbying against it in the coming weeks.

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