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Ireland to Launch its First-Ever Gambling Regulatory Authority

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Ireland to Launch its First-Ever Gambling Regulatory Authority

For several decades Ireland has offered a safe haven for gambling companies looking to reach customers without being dragged down by hoards of red tape. Laws were relatively lax when compared to the UK, and over the last few years, the Irish government has begun to see the consequences of this, as levels of addiction rose. Pressure on the police also increased, as a quirk of Irish gambling legislation meant that with no official regulatory body it was left to the police to enforce gambling industry legislation. Now, after many months of lobbying and discussions in parliament, Ireland is about to see the country’s first-ever gambling regulatory authority launch in the coming months.

What Do We Know About the Gambling Regulatory Authority So Far?

Earlier this year the news leaked that a search for the regulator’s CEO was underway. The new organisation is expected to launch in early 2023, although many campaigners have been lobbying for a 2022 launch date in response to the rise of problem gamblers in recent months. 

The new regulatory body will unify the current disjointed pieces of gambling legislation into one cohesive set of regulations. The organisation will be given powers to set and enforce strict rules on the gambling industry, including the ability to both grant gambling licenses and revoke them if necessary. 

One of the new regulator’s most pressing issues to tackle will be that of advertising and sponsorship. Current law states that marketing communications and advertising should not “portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that is socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm”, according to the Irish Advertising Standards Agency

 What Changes Can Be Expected?

The new regulatory authority will certainly affect these online casinos in Ireland, and it is still unclear as to how that will be the case. Under suggested changes, gambling TV adverts could be subject to heavy restrictions surrounding suitable broadcasting times. There have also been discussions around banning betting shops or advertising near Irish schools. The regulator is also likely to discuss imposing a limit on the frequency that bookmakers are allowed to advertise on each media platform per day. Labour senator Marie Sherlock said that she thought that legislation should go even further, with an outright ban on gambling advertising in Ireland. She said, “ultimately we have been talking about better regulating gambling in this country for a long period of time and we have yet to see comprehensive and firm action”. She then added, “we believe the government needs to go much further and actually have an outright ban on gambling advertising, both online and on our broadcast media”. Senator Sherlock also called for a ban on bookmakers near Irish schools after claiming to receive reports of children in school uniforms entering the establishments.

One of the more controversial powers that the regulator is likely to be granted includes the ability to block remote or online access to any provider’s service in the county, or completely shut down operations, along with freezing or blocking accounts, assets or payments if companies don’t comply with regulations.

Justice Committee Oireachtas also called for a ban on all forms of gambling advertisements after they released a report highlighting the impact that currently legal advertising has impacted young people. At the time of the study, the report concluded that over 3400 15 and 16-year-olds were engaging in problem gambling in Ireland.

The report, which is expected to heavily influence the new regulator’s decisions, recommended an evaluation between sports and gambling advertising, particularly in the racing industry where high-profile figures had been used in promotions. The report suggested that using celebrities and high-profile sports personalities could be driving the increase in underage gambling. Some representatives from the health industry argued that it’s “hard not to see a gambling advert when turning on the radio, TV, or when browsing social media”.

Some critics argued that advertising “is an important tool for operators to communicate with customers” They also said that “a right to advertise by regulated operators should form part of the regulatory framework around gambling”.

Despite anonymous critics that are rumoured to be linked to the industry itself, there has been an overwhelming amount of support for the launch of the new gambling regulator, as well as for the potential tightening of regulations. With a rise in problem gambling across the country and an increase in underage gambling, it’s no wonder that so much of the Irish population agrees with the suggested changes. 

The Future of Gambling Regulation in Ireland

 Although we don’t yet know exactly how a Gambling Regulatory Authority in Ireland will pan out, we do know that the UK has strict gambling rules but still manages to be a thriving industry. The chances are that much of what we see in the UK regarding advertising standards, gambling ages and even what gambling operators need to do in order to protect vulnerable gamblers. The UK is currently undergoing its own gambling reform which has been delayed, but this is likely to bring with it a number of changes in order to keep up with gambling technology and the way gamers are accessing gambling products. It is likely in the future any gambling authority in Ireland will need to carry out similar reviews of laws and ensure that any regulations put in place are up to date too.

Technology means that the way people gamble and what online gambling platforms can offer is always changing and therefore, laws and regulations can quickly become outdated. The UK has been accused of being slow in the introduction of new laws, so any Irish gambling authority will need to be quick off the mark if they want to escape the same criticism. The truth is that gambling throughout Ireland is increasing in popularity and therefore it is important that something is put in place to keep consumers safe and ensure that gambling operators have guidance on how they should be offering their services, and if the rumours are true then this will be in place and operational next year, so let’s see what changes that comes with it.

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