Gambling Overhaul Pledged in Ireland

The leading political parties in Ireland have pledged to introduce a gambling regulator in their manifestos for the General Election on the 8th of February. Parties such as Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Irish Labour party have all included provisions to alter the structure of gambling regulations in Ireland in their manifestos.

A sign for a polling station during an election.

The Irish public is due to head to the polls in early February to select a governing party. Several parties have included provisions to help regulate gambling in their manifestos. ©mounsey/Pixabay

The governing party, Fine Gael, has been projected to have the second-highest number of seats in the country in all of the polls conducted since the election was called on the 14th of January 2020. The party has announced its plans to introduce an independent gambling regulator for Ireland should it win a majority of the vote share in the election. Fine Gael has stated that the regulator would be introduced to tackle the issue of problem gambling in Ireland.

“We will emulate best practice in the design of the new regulatory body and ensure that it is equipped to respond to a rapidly evolving gambling environment”, the party manifesto said.

Fine Gael also added that it will examine any rules put in place around gambling and will make them more stringent than they are currently if necessary.

“We will review the controls that exist in relation to access to, and the behavior of, gambling apps and websites; and, if the existing controls are not sufficient to prevent underage or vulnerable people from gambling, we will mandate the regulator to put strict controls in place.”

In addition to this, the party also pledged to “increase awareness of the range of interventions for the treatment of gambling, providing access to assessment and individual counseling services”.

Fianna Fáil’s Gambling Pledges

Fianna Fáil is leading the polls in Ireland at present and is also Fine Gael’s current confidence and supply partner. It has listed a series of policies for “safe and responsible gambling”

“Fianna Fáil is committed to implementing regulation for socially responsible gambling,” the party manifesto said. “This means setting out clear regulations to prevent the sector doing harm.”

Fianna Fáil said that given the fact that Fine Gael has been the largest governing party in Ireland since 2011 and yet had not voted previously to regulate gambling it had “no credibility” on the subject.

The party also added that its gambling regulator would be funded by an industry levy and would deal with the industry, issue fines, conduct research and operate a Social Fund (funded by the industry) to help individuals suffering from gambling addiction.

On top of setting up a regulator, Fianna Fáil promised that it would introduce age restrictions, gambling limits, cooling-off periods and a ban on gambling using credit cards.

“Limits to the amounts available and strict cooling-off periods will help prevent serial gambling abuse” the party said.

Fianna Fáil also plans to implement a whistle-to-whistle advertising ban for live sport should it win in the general election. Additionally, it wishes to introduce stricter gambling advertising restrictions in general, as well as a ban on loot boxes in video games.

“The ubiquity of gambling advertising risks seeping into vulnerable users and children,” the manifesto continued. “It should be confined to appropriate post-watershed times and tackled online.”

Pledges of Other Parties

The opposition party Sinn Fein, which is currently in third place in the polls, has not released its manifesto to the public as yet.

The Irish Labour party has said that it would “implement a strategy to tighten the regulation of gambling”. This strategy would include a ban on the use of credit cards to gamble. The Green Party and People Before Profit did not mention any changes to the regulation of gambling in Ireland in their manifestos.

Current Gambling Overhaul in Ireland

Ireland is currently in the process of overhauling its outdated gambling laws. This was originally being done through the 2019 Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill. This legislation was passed by the Dáil in December of 2019. The bill formally introduced an 18+ age restriction for gambling in the country and also brought in a €10 stake limit and a €750 prize cap for gaming machines.

This bill, however, is due to be superseded by the Gambling Control Bill, which is currently being developed. This bull is likely to be presented to the Oireachtas for the first time later this year. The Gambling Control Bill is due to bring in a dedicated gambling regulator for the country, which will have the power for licensing and enforcement actions.

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