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New gambling laws could be in force in Ireland before the end of 2018

New gambling laws could be in force in Ireland before the end of this year, a government minister has said.16 Jan 2018

David Stanton, Ireland's minister of state at the Department of Justice and Equality, provided details of plans to update Ireland's legislation on gambling during a TV interview last week.

The proposed reforms would streamline the existing fragmented and longstanding gambling laws currently in force in Ireland and establish a new licensing regime too, according to Dublin-based gambling law expert Dermot McGirr of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said.

Plans to update Irish gambling laws have been in place for years, but have failed to materialise.

Proposals for reforms to the licensing and regulation of gambling in Ireland were outlined in the General Scheme of the Gambling Control Bill published by the Irish government in July 2013. However, those proposals have not materially advanced over the last five years.

Last Wednesday, minister Stanton briefed other Cabinet ministers and requested their approval to bring forward an updated general scheme of the Bill. He had, in May last year, outlined his intention to bring forward the Bill for government approval and publication before the end of 2017.

In an interview with broadcaster RTÉ, Stanton said he now hopes the plans will be enacted before the end of 2018.

According to McGirr, the proposed new general scheme of the Bill would deliver important and significant changes to the status quo.

"Gaming and lotteries, with the exception of the Irish National Lottery, in Ireland are currently regulated by a disjointed and dated series of legislation: the Gaming and Lotteries Acts 1956 to 2013," McGirr said. "The Scheme intends to bring almost all forms of betting, gaming and lotteries under one legislative programme for the first time and to create a one-stop-shop licensing regime for all forms of gambling."

Changes are also expected in the way gambling is regulated, McGirr said. A new independent statutory gambling authority is to be set up. Previous proposals were for a gambling regulator to sit within the Department of Justice.

"This marks a significant policy shift – as well as a departure from the original text of the Scheme – and aligns the Irish regime with the model adopted by the Gambling Commission in Great Britain," McGirr said.

The experts said that the new authority would be given powers to grant licences and to have oversight of how operators comply with the legislation, according to the plans outlined by minister Stanton.

"The new scheme proposes to grant the authority extended enforcement powers, including the power to enter and seize documents and computers from licensed operators for any suspected breaches of the new legislation," McGirr said. "The authority would also be able to seek background checks and reports from the Irish police on any persons applying for gambling licences. In addition, the new gambling authority would have the power to impose a levy on all licensed gambling facilities in order to establish a 'Social Gambling Fund' to help provide treatment for problem gamblers and fund research into problem gambling."

Further limitations on gambling advertising, particularly advertising targeted at young people, are also contained within the proposals for the new general scheme of the Gambling Control Bill, the experts said.