Ireland’s McGrath expands calls for betting reform to National Lottery

Michael McGrath, the Public Expenditure Minister for the Republic of Ireland, has called for a ban on private bookmakers taking bets on the numbers of the country’s National Lottery.

According to the Irish Independent, McGrath is concerned that the National Lottery and Euromillions are undermined by bookmakers who offer similar products under their own brand names – a practice he believes is misleading consumers.

Additionally, the Minister has raised concerns with operators’ marketing strategies, such as the use of free bets, discounts and loyalty schemes with links to lottery betting. 

These practices are forbidden by the National Lottery, but can be offered by private betting companies on their own lottery products. 

Lottery betting accounts for around 8% of Ireland’s overall gambling revenue, amounting to around €400 million of overall turnover, according to polling firm Red C. It has also been claimed 35% of lottery players would play the lottery if betting on the outcome was allowed.

McGrath has reportedly written to James Browne, the Minister of State for Law Reform, arguing for the introduction of legislation prohibiting private operators from offering lottery betting as part of a commercial product range.

The communication comes as Browne drafts legislation overhauling Ireland’s gambling regulations, proposing a ban on the use of credit cards for betting as well as abolishing gaming incentives such as special offers.

Furthermore, the Minister plans to introduce a gambling regulator to oversee all legislation regarding the Irish betting industry, and has supported the introduction of affordability checks in order to regulate how much people can gamble depending on their personal financial situation.

Lastly, the legislator intends to launch a crackdown on criminals using the regulated gambling industry for money laundering purposes, and has outlined plans to develop a social fund to provide monetary backing for problem gambling treatment services.

Irish political figures have become increasingly focused on tightening regulations on the country’s betting and gambling market over the past year, with the ‘Interim Gaming and Lotteries Act’ passing through the Dáil in December 2020, laying the foundations for extensive reform of the country’s gaming legislation.

The Irish Labour Party has also launched draft legislation – the Gambling (Prohibition of Advertising) Bill 2021 – which, if successfully passed through the Dáil, will prohibit gambling advertisements.

This move by the minor opposition party followed calls by leading sporting bodies – the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) and Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) – for a ban on betting adverts during sports fixtures.

However, although the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has introduced a ban on sports betting sponsorship arrangements, this will not apply to clubs competing in the League of Ireland.

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