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Upcoming Irish Gambling Legislation
Prior to 2021, casinos had interpreted the Irish Gaming and Lotteries Act to mean that it did not apply to private arrangements. This led to them operating as private members’ clubs instead. The relevant exemption has actually been repealed since then though, making things harder for casinos.
The Irish government passed its amendments to the iGaming and Lotteries Act in December of 2020, and this was a sort of precursor to a larger and more significant overhaul, expected to come into effect later on this year. That legislation introduced a more coherent permit and licensing application process to the country. At the same time, it proceeded to standardise the minimum gambling age as 18 for all forms of betting.
So, what else can be expected from the upcoming Irish gambling legislation for 2021?
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What to Expect from the Gambling Act Overhaul
At the beginning of the year, it was noted that the Irish gambling regulatory body would be established by the summer of 2021. After this was set up, further legislation was expected to be introduced to the country alongside. The cost of setting up the regulatory body would be covered by the Irish Government initially, before leaving it to be funded by the industry itself afterwards. Between €8 million and €12 million would be put into the project within its first few years of operation.
The Government also stated that following this being set up, it would include additional legislation, starting with spending limits that players have to adhere to. Those limits were not stated specifically at the time, but some legislators have suggested a maximum of €100 per day.
It is also the case that mobile gambling will have a higher level of security imposed on it. This means that a stronger age verification protocol is expected to be introduced, so as to protect minors from potential gambling harm. How the country intends to proceed with this particular point remains to be seen.
What’s more, advertising restrictions are to be brought into effect, most reports suggest. This is expected to include the prohibition of advertisements that tempt players to return to gambling participation if they have been absent for a period of time.
Perhaps one of the more interesting points noted by the Minister of State was that video game loot boxes would not be included in the new gambling legislation. This is because, according to a statement given by the Department of Justice and Equality, loot boxes do not “fall within the current Irish legal definition of gambling”. Instead, it deems in-game purchases as exactly that – a purchase, rather than a gamble.
Under the expected new legislation though, land-based and online casinos should be able to set up shop properly. This would leave room for some high-quality, well-established and fascinating online casinos to enter into the Irish market.
Previous Amendments for Licensing Purposes
The previous amendments to the law introduced at the end of 2020 establish certain conditions that are required for promoters of lottery and gaming activities. All operators must apply to An Garda Síochána – the Irish police force – to receive a permit that will allow on-site gaming. The maximum stake at these establishments is fixed at €10 and anyone playing within them cannot win over €3,000 in a single game.
Where licences are concerned, applications for such must be made to the District Court. Lotteries with a total prize of up to €30,000 per week can be licensed this way, while 25% of the proceeds from such must be given to charities or philanthropic projects.
When it comes to gaming machines, a licence is required from the Revenue. It is also the responsibility of the Revenue to keep a ledger of all the gaming licences it has handed out.
Something else that was introduced as part of the 2020 overhaul was an increase in the severity of penalties handed out for any offences. Fines of up to €5,000 can be given, and imprisonment of up to six months for a summary conviction.
The Irish Regulatory Body
For the time being, there is no Irish regulatory body akin to what presides over the UK gambling sector. This remains as something that is being created at the moment. Through it, a similar scenario to what the UK offers now can be established, resulting in a similar set of top casinos in Ireland. Speaking on setting up such a regulatory body, the Minister of State, David Stanton said:
“A modern and effectively regulated gambling environment will ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that gambling will be a safe, fair and entertaining activity for the majority of those who choose to take part in it. We must ensure that it will provide enhanced consumer protection for players while limiting to the greatest extent possible the harmful effects on young people and those who may be susceptible to addiction”.
Remote betting and other associated services are already permitted within Ireland. So, an operator currently licensed by the Irish Revenue Commissioners may provide services online to Irish citizens. The equipment for providing such services can be located within Ireland or at an offshore location. Current legislation sees casino games, including online slot machines, table games, bingo and others, governed over by the aforementioned Gaming and Lotteries Acts.
The point that stands at the moment is that the legislative regime has not been updated so as to officially take account of iGaming. And this is something that the new legislation is expected to address, thanks to the creation of the new regulatory body.
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