The European Betting & Gaming Association (EGBA) has reacted positively to the news that the government of the Republic of Ireland has proposed new legislation for the regulation of online gambling. The proposed new legislation is also intended to better protect Irish online gamblers.
The new laws are described by the Irish government as: “Legislation [that] will tackle critical deficiencies and represents a substantial modernisation and reform of the regulation of gambling in Ireland.”
Current Irish gambling law not fit to meet modern demands
The Irish Minister of State for Law Reform, Youth Justice and Immigration, James Browne TD, acknowledged that the existing law was not meeting the challenges of the modern online gambling marketplace. In his statement, he accepted that the current laws are outdated and incoherent, and that the time has come to address the issue of gambling regulation in Ireland.
The new proposals, which were announced on 21 October 2021 in the General Scheme of the Gambling Regulation Bill, include concepts such as establishing an independent gambling authority to oversee every aspect of the country’s gambling regulations and all related activities, including advertising.
The new legislation will now be submitted to the Republic’s Office of Parliamentary Counsel as well as the Oireachtas Justice Committee so that it can be scrutinised properly. It is anticipated that the entire legislative process will take around a year to finalise.
Additionally, a new regulatory body will be established in Ireland – the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland. The key objectives of this new body will include amongst its aims that gambling will be conducted in a fair and open way so that companies can make “decisions in certainty.”
It will also aim to establish safeguards in relation to gambling advertising in Ireland, as well as look to prevent gambling being a source of funding and support for crime.
The EGBA is broadly in favour of the new proposals, it has stated. The body particularly welcomes the ideas for a gambling regulatory body as well as the establishment of a national exclusion register for those falling into harmful patterns of behaviour around gambling. Such a register would allow these individuals to block themselves from accessing any gambling websites.
EGBA concerns around blanket ban on free bets
The EGBA does, however, have some concerns around a possible blanket ban on bonus bets, often described by operators as ‘free bets’ when they are included in bonus offers. The EGBA is concerned that such a ban will drive many gamblers, who enjoy taking advantage of bonus bet offers, into the arms of offshore operators who are not licensed to operate in the Irish market.
“With Ireland one of the two remaining countries in Europe which has no dedicated regulation of online gambling, this is an important opportunity to shape an Irish online gambling market which is well-regulated, meets the consumers’ needs and expectations, and sets a high level of consumer protection,” said the Secretary General of the EGBA, Maarten Haijer.
The proposed new legislation will be backed by funding of €500,000 in the Irish Government’s Budget 2022. This fund will pay for the costs of appointing a CEO designate to the new Authority as well as any non-pay related costs.
This takes the total funding allocated to the project to €700,000, as €200,000 was allocated as initial seed funding in Budget 2021. The full fund will help to meet additional costs such as accommodation.
The new Authority also looks like it will have some teeth. It will be able to apply administrative financial sanctions including fines of up to €20 million on any operators that transgress its regulations.