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General Scheme of the Gambling Control Bill 2013

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Alan Shatter, Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence recently announced the publication of the General Scheme of the Gambling Control Bill 2013.

Minister Shatter, stated that “the legislation has the twin objective of effectively regulating the new and dynamic gambling sector that has emerged in recent years, while also providing the opportunity to introduce important new measures to protect vulnerable adults and young people. The updated legislation and new regulatory regime will provide for a consistent interpretation and application of the law across all areas of gambling and as a result, it will bring legal certainty to the area”.

 The new Bill will repeal and replace all existing arrangements for the regulation of betting, gaming, bingo and lotteries (except for the National Lottery).

 The key principles of the new legislation will be:

  • The protection of minors and players;
  • The prevention of crime;
  • Gambling to be fairly and openly conducted.

Anyone offering gambling services, whether based in the State or elsewhere will have to have a licence under the new Bill. In this regard, Minister Shatter announced that, “a new executive agency will act as both the licensing authority and regulator for the sector, and will have responsibility for checking compliance and in enforcing the law generally”. This executive will be self financing from licence fees and other charges.

The Bill will limit the number of casinos in the State to 40. No Casino will be allowed to have more than 15 tables and “super casinos” or “resort casinos” will be prohibited under the new Bill. The Bill will relax the rule that bingo always has to be for charitable or philanthropic purposes. Further, the Bill includes a full ban on fixed odds betting terminals.

A fund to help treatment for problem gamblers is also contained in the General Scheme of the Bill. Minister Shatter stated, “I expect the gambling sector to commit itself in a meaningful way to the concept and practice of socially responsible gambling, I will accept nothing less than high quality services and I will make sure that all operators pay their share for the development of services needed by people for whom gambling has become a problem.”

Mr. Shatter has prioritised the need to make sure gambling operations are not controlled by criminal gangs and has included arrangements to check the suitability of operators, including checks on criminal records and arrangements to contact law enforcement bodies.

Technology has lead to major changes in the gambling sector in recent years. In relation to this, Minister Shatter stated that, “I will ensure that the new law will have the flexibility necessary to deal with rapid and continuous innovation, in the public interest.”

The effective regulation of the online gambling sector has thus far proved difficult for many countries. For the new proposed regime to be effective, it must be robust but also flexible enough to deal with the rapidly evolving online Gambling sector.

Work is under way to complete the drafting of the Bill. A public consultation process will take place and there will be an opportunity to make representations in respect of the proposed content of the legislation.

We will update you when the Bill has been finalised.