It has been reported in the Irish media that the Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton TD, sought and obtained cabinet approval on 10 January 2018 to draft a new updated general scheme of the Gambling Control Bill (“General Scheme”), the original of which was published in 2013 and which has been described ever since as a priority piece of legislation.
As mentioned in our previous briefing on 16 March 2017 (entitled “10 Things You Need to Know About the Gambling Control Bill 2013”), little progress has been made since the General Scheme was originally published in 2013. The media reports have indicated that the Bill will now be updated to cover new developments in the industry such as online gambling, the regulation of casinos and social media advertising, as well as, in a significant departure from what was originally envisaged, providing for the establishment of an independent regulatory authority. Several of these points are discussed below.
Media reports do not indicate any timeframe for completion of the revised bill, but Minister Stanton has said that it is a priority of his to deliver the revised Bill in 2018.
1. Independent Regulatory Authority
It is now proposed that an independent regulatory authority will be established to regulate the gambling industry in Ireland. In contrast, it was previously envisaged that the Department of Justice would provide regulatory oversight of this area. Media reports suggest that the duties of this authority will include overseeing advertising, sports sponsorship, access for those under 18, a social fund for access to treatment for addiction, and a research function. Reports do not mention whether this authority will have responsibility for issuing licensing, ensuring compliance with the Bill, how the Bill will be enforced once enacted or how the authority will be funded.
2. Online Gambling and Social Media Advertising
Media reports also suggest that online gambling and social media advertising will be considered in the revised Bill. A government spokesperson has been quoted as saying that the Bill should be updated in order to “protect consumers and vulnerable people”. Our previous briefing noted that the inclusion of advertising restrictions in primary legislation could render them inflexible, as it would potentially make these rules more difficult to amend as necessary.
3. Licensing System
It is reported that the revised Bill will update the licensing system in Ireland. As per our previous briefing, several submissions were made to the Department of Justice and Equality in relation to the complex licensing system envisaged by the General Scheme seeking a more streamlined licensing system. It remains unclear whether this will be addressed in the revised Bill.
4. Other Issues
Other issues that are reported to be included in the revised Bill are the regulation of gaming machines, the regulation of casinos and the protection of children against gambling. Legislation for land-based casinos and casino games was provided for in the General Scheme, as per our previous briefing. We also advised in that briefing provisions to allow for gaming in betting shops and enhanced player protection measures were to be legislated for under the General Scheme. No specific mention has been made of these provisions in relation to the revised Bill.
In conclusion, there appears to be renewed political appetite to implement this legislation and for regulation of the gambling industry in Ireland. The fact that a new General Scheme is being prepared is a significant development.