The new interim Gaming and Lotteries Act in Ireland has come into force signaling the upcoming regulatory reform of the gambling market in the country in 2021. The “interim reform measure pending the comprehensive reform of gambling in Ireland”, as the government described the Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Act 2019, came into effect December 1.
All issued permits and gambling licenses under the provisions of the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 will remain valid until their next renewal date, and if that date is after December 1, 2020, the new provisions will apply.
The interim legislation pursues several key objectives among which the modernization of the promotion of land-based gambling, streamlining the application process for lottery and gaming permits, as well as small scale gambling and lottery operators.
“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.”James Browne, Minister of State for Law Reform
The act seeks to prevent underage gambling by setting a minimum age for gamblers, update the stake and prize limits for gaming machines, as well as enhance consumer protection and increase proceeds from gambling for charitable causes.
“These activities, held primarily for charitable and philanthropic purposes, are the lifeblood of our sporting clubs and community organisations across the country. Many of these clubs and organisations have had their fundraising efforts hit hard by the pandemic.”James Browne, Minister of State for Law Reform
The government committed to establish a gambling regulator mindful of public safety and wellbeing while exercising its power to regulate gambling advertising, gaming websites and apps, and after a report from the Inter-Departmental Working Group on the Future Licensing and Regulation of Gambling in Ireland in 2019, the government passed the act which paved the way for a new regulatory framework.
The Minister of State for Law Reform with special responsibility for gambling regulation James Browne expressed his content to be able to secure a seed funding of €200,000 for the new regulatory entity, with the funds coming under the justice allocation in Budget 2021.
Since passing the bill, the process stalled due to political uncertainty in the country and the coronavirus outbreak, which forced the government to delay its timetable and announce in September that the new regulator would not be live by the end of the year.
Besides the general licensing and regulatory enforcement responsibilities typical for a gambling watchdog, the new regulatory entity will bear responsibility for a national self-exclusion register, as well as advertising and sponsorships by gambling operators.
The body will be independent of the government and will be able to administer a social fund formed by levies on licensed operators. The fund will support research, information campaigns and treatment for problem gamblers.