Ireland adopts interim Gaming and Lotteries Act ahead of wholesale 2021 reforms

Ireland has passed the ‘interim Gaming and Lotteries Act’, establishing the foundations for a planned sweeping reform of the nation’s gambling laws in 2021.  

The overhaul of Ireland’s gambling legislation will provide a long-awaited modernisation of existing legislation for the sector that dates back to 1931 and 1956, updating codes and standards for the digital age and modern consumer. 

The interim measures have been described by the Dáil as a means of supporting the ‘better promotion of local gaming and lottery activity’, with James Browne –  minister of state with special responsibility for gambling regulation – praising the step towards ‘modern, sensible and effective’ regulations.

The minister said: “Gambling is a large and evolving industry. It must be the subject of a modern, sensible and effective licensing and regulatory approach. My Department is now engaged in the drafting of a general scheme of a new Bill to provide for that comprehensive reform.

“I was also pleased to secure ‘seed funding’ of €200,000 for the new regulator as part of the justice allocation in Budget 2021.”

The 2019 Act will focus on streamlining the application process for lottery and gambling permits, as well as the application process for smaller-scale gaming and lottery activity.

In addition, the act sets out a minimum age of 18 years old for all licensed gambling products, standardising various measures from across the betting, gaming and lottery industries.

Despite the government’s intentions to modernise Ireland’s gambling laws, critical questions remain as to how the government will establish key regulatory agencies governing gambling and allocate resources to support health and treatment services preventing problem gambling. 

Since 2008, consecutive governments have been criticised for their inability to reform the nation’s laws despite bi-partisan support, with Ireland being the only EU member state to maintain no digital regulatory frameworks for online gambling. 

In 2013, Ireland’s Department of Justice demanded that the Enda Kenny’s government needed to urgently reform the nation’s gambling controls, as Irish courts could not convict criminal offences related to online gambling under laws established during the 1950s

Last year, the Irish government’s proposals to establish an independent gambling regulator to oversee the licencing of all gambling operators received the ‘full backing’ of the industry. 

However, following the disruptions caused by the pandemic, the creation of an Irish gambling regulator has been delayed until ‘at least 2021’.

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