Gambling Control Bill Finally On Its Way

Gambling Control Bill Finally On Its Way
Doireann Garrihy
Doireann Garrihy

9 Feb 2017

Driven by ever changing, and increasingly more immersive technology, the way we live our lives, and spend our leisure time in particular is changing almost on a monthly basis. This may be good for those able to keep up, but it causes serious issues for governments trying to keep pace with those changes. Getting new legislation written, approved and pushed through all the appropriate channels is a notoriously laborious, and by definition, reactive process.

One of the areas that need to be addressed – and it looks like it finally is going to be – are the gambling laws here in Ireland. The gambling industry is being transformed at a phenomenal rate. Whichever way you cut it, gambling is big business. Recent estimates put the amount of money gambled by punters in Ireland alone at more than €5 billion a year, according to the Gaming & Leisure Association of Ireland. That equates to just shy of €100 million every single week. 12% of Irish adults visit a bookmaker every week, while 2% admit to regularly gambling online.

That 2% is growing, and will continue to grow, as more and more people take advantage of the ease, and convenience online casinos such as 888casino can offer them. More and more, the authentic casino experience can be enjoyed from the comfort of a punter’s own home, or even on the go, courtesy of smartphones and tablets. Leading casino providers are diversifying their range of products to offer online, with different variants of classic games, new flavours of slots as well as high-tech offerings such as live roulette and live three card poker, just two of the live casino games on offer at the aforementioned website.

The gambling industry figures may be dramatic, but Ireland as a whole is still lagging behind many of the other European and English-speaking countries, and one of the main reasons for that is the outdated legislation. Signs are promising though that things are going to change, with the Gambling Control Bill which first saw the light of day back in 2013 - when then Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter introduced it - finally looking like it will make its way through the Oireachtas.

A Department of Justice spokesperson announced last month that “It is the intention to proceed with the Gambling Control Bill legislation at the earliest feasible opportunity - and, in that light, it is expected that this will be given renewed consideration in the preparation of the next legislation programme."

It is likely that a brand new agency will be created to act as both regulator of the gambling sector as well as licensing authority. Existing rules and legislation would be repealed and replaced.
The new legislation will cover a raft of measures, including the banning of fixed odds betting terminals; the setting up of a social gambling fund to assist problem gamblers and limiting the number of tables in casinos to 15, and gaming machines to 25 – effectively ruling out the possibility of any so-called super casinos being built.

The changes have been welcomed across the board, and the definitive, transparent guidelines are likely to see more investment in the industry in Ireland.

One of the areas yet to be finalised, but one that is being given high priority, is the technological developments in the industry, both in terms of the effect they are having on the traditional bricks and mortar establishments, and the way that they allow the public to take part. We may not be there yet, but it looks like we may finally be putting ourselves in the position where we have not only kept pace with neighbouring countries, but with the industry itself.