A gambling regulatory authority is an absolute necessity to protect the consumer and vulnerable individuals, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan told the Dáil on 9 May 2018.
Gambling addiction risks both liberty and health, he said, and progress has been too slow in protecting the public from the fast-evolving gambling industry.
And the government will insist on fair play from the big players, the Minister warned, because normal consumer protections must apply in this area.
Gambling operators will be levied to fund addiction treatment for problem gamblers damaged by a betting addiction. The Minister said that a social fund, bankrolled by betting profit levies, will be administered by the new independent regulatory authority.
He said the government will insist on the industry big-hitters providing a workable self-exclusion process from online betting accounts for those with a gambling addiction.
A private members’ bill on gambling control, sponsored by TDs Jim O’Callaghan, Jack Chambers and Anne Rabbitte, is not being opposed by the government.
Charlie Flanagan told the Dáil that the bill replicates government attempts in 2013 to reform Ireland’s antiquated gambling legislation bringing together licensing and regulatory functions in one place. The antiquated Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 will also be updated, he said.
However, the rapid evolution of the gambling industry means that significant changes to the 2013 General Scheme of the Gambling Control Bill are necessary.
The beefed-up controls will make gambling industry players answerable for the first time to an independent statutory body.
This will have stronger powers than the Office for Gambling Control originally mooted in the 2013 bill.
Cabinet came down in favour of a regulatory authority at its 10 January meeting earlier this year, bringing Ireland into line with most EU member states. The body will be run under the auspices of the Department of Justice and Equality.