Proposals to introduce a regulatory body to provide greater oversight of the Irish betting and gaming industry have been welcomed by the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA), but the organisation remains concerned about some potential measures.
Described as an ‘extremely powerful’ regulatory body by Ireland’s Minister of State for Law Reform, Youth Justice and Immigration, James Browne TD, the new commission will have a range of powers and responsibilities including the ability to develop codes, regulations and impose fines.
Browne published the General Scheme of the Gambling Regulation Bill earlier this month, with the establishment of a new regulator a core objective of the ‘Interim Gaming and Lotteries Act’, passed by the Dáil Éireann in December 2020 with the goal of modernising Ireland’s 1931 and 1956 betting legislation.
The Minister’s proposals will take around 12 months to be finalised into law, with the next stage of the process seeing the bill submitted to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel and referred to the Oireachtas Justice Committee for pre-legislative scrutiny.
“We welcome the Irish government’s publication of the General Scheme of the Gambling Regulation Bill,” said Maarten Haijer, EGBA Secretary General. “This is an important milestone, and it provides companies, including our own members, with some certainty as to the direction of travel of the legislation.”
EGBA has been particularly supportive of the decision to introduce a new regulatory authority to the Irish betting market, as well as the move to create an updated national self-exclusion register, but has expressed concerns about talk within the Irish media of a potential ban on free bets.
The organisation detailed its view that this measure could ‘nudge gamblers who regularly use free bets’ towards an unregulated black market, subsequently falling outside the scope and protection of the newly formed Irish regulator.
“The EGBA looks forward to engaging with Minister Browne and his team to share our experiences from other European jurisdictions,” Haijer continued.
“With Ireland one of the two remaining countries in Europe which has no dedicated regulation of online gambling, this is an important opportunity to shape an Irish online gambling market which is well-regulated, meets the consumers’ needs and expectations, and sets a high level of consumer protection.”