The Minister for Justice and Law Reform, Mr Dermot Ahern T.D., today announced he has obtained Government approval to publish a paper which contains options for the future regulation of gambling. The document is entitled, Options for Regulating Gambling and is available on the Department's website at www.justice.ie.
Minister Ahern said he was taking the step of publishing this options paper as a means of assisting the future regulation of gambling in the State. The Minister said: "Our existing laws regulating gambling are not fit for purpose in this age of mass global communications. I am publishing these options so as to provide choices to be made to properly regulate the gambling landscape. Today’s initiative is, therefore, a major step on the road towards developing a new fully regulated environment for the sector, reflecting 21st century thinking in this area of complex public policy. It is my wish that gambling regulation should be brought into the 21st century and that means improved protection for minors and vulnerable adults, more transparent operations by gambling providers, and more effective measures against fraud and illegal gambling and criminality".
The Minister said that Options for Regulating Gambling could form a source document for any new regulatory architecture for gambling. The document takes as its starting point the Report of the Casino Committee, Regulating Gaming in Ireland which examined the case for regulating casino activities in the State. The document is also informed by the public consultation launched in May of last year. The Minister said: "I would like to take this opportunity to thank the 70 or more organisations and individuals who took the time to submit their views on and to engage with the major review of gambling. I very much appreciate the valuable contribution they have made to the review and to the paper being published today".
The Minister added that the document represents a synthesis of views and is aimed at building as much consensus as possible. The document gives the option of bringing together under a single enactment the regulatory environment for gambling by repealing the Gaming and Lotteries Acts 1956 to 2003, the Betting Act 1931 and other related enactments. The Minister stated that the following objectives are paramount, and urged that they form the bedrock of any policy to regulate gambling:
· that young people and the vulnerable are protected;
· that gambling should, in all respects, be fairly and openly conducted;
· that gambling is kept free of crime.
Options for Regulating Gambling envisages the proposed introduction of a unified regulator for gambling to be the Department of Justice and Law Reform. The proposed options, as well as offering protection of minors and vulnerable persons would provide for remote gambling i.e. gambling via telephone, mobile phones, internet and interactive TV.
Options for Regulating Gambling explores provision for regulating casino gaming under licence. Private Members' Clubs at which gambling activities are carried on could be obliged to apply for authorisation as registered casinos. Failure to do so would result in closure and prosecution for illegal gambling. It is envisaged that no existing facility that is in breach of the law, or which exploits weaknesses in current law could expect an automatic right to a licence.
The document also discusses larger scale casinos - to be called resort casinos. If in the future it is decided to permit such a development, strict arrangements would need to be made in law for the licensing of such a venue. Options for Regulating Gambling sets out some of the arguments adduced for and against such casinos and outlines a robust system of regulation. All decisions relating to the location of such a venue or the allocation of a licence would fall to be decided by an independent selection authority.
Options for Regulating Gambling envisages that the role of local authorities in relation to gambling in their areas could be revised so that it is discharged largely through the planning process and a licensing arrangement for gambling premises. In other words, local authorities would exercise both authority and responsibility in relation to gambling in their areas.
The paper envisages a range of penalties for non-compliance with provisions ranging from administrative-type penalties to criminal law breaches.
The Minister said that any revised gambling legislation as a consequence of Options for Regulating Gambling should aim to regulate better and not to deregulate; should aim to regulate strictly where that is required, and to make gambling in all respects unlawful unless provided for by statute; it should proactively promote player protection and protection of minors; and should tackle the challenges and opportunities posed by gambling via the internet.
22 December 2010
Note to Editors
The document, Options for Regulating Gambling, which is available on the Department's website www.justice.ie makes suggestions across the regulatory landscape for gambling.
In a future Gambling Act, among the provisions that could be adopted are:
Single Regulatory Authority
The current separate regulatory frameworks for betting which is the responsibility of the Department of Finance, and Gaming & Lotteries which are the responsibility of the Department of Justice and Law Reform, would cease to exist: Options for Regulating Gambling proposes that all gambling would come under a unified regulator for gambling to be the Department of Justice and Law Reform.
The National Lottery
The National Lottery would maintain its separate status with the Department of Finance. However it would be subject to applying responsible gambling and protection of minors’ codes.
Definitions of different forms of gambling
Gambling, betting, gaming, participating in a lottery would all be clearly defined. Any resulting legislation would define and regulate remote gambling i.e., over the internet, by telephone, mobile phone, interactive TV, etc.
Offences and Penalties
The adoption of penalties for non-compliance would also be an issue. These would be more than just the criminal law sanctions that are currently in existence - they would range from administrative sanctions to civil sanctions and, at the end of the spectrum, criminal sanctions.
District Court Certification
Options for Regulating Gambling envisages the retention of the best aspects of the current regimes, such as court based certification processes, but there would be a need for significant enforcement measures, to be paid for by the licensing arrangements.
Role of Local Authorities
The paper suggests that the role of local authorities could be revised. The current power vested in local authorities to permit or to ban gaming in their areas could cease. It is envisaged that local authorities could have powers in relation to the planning process and a licensing arrangement for gambling premises.
Enforceability of gambling contracts
The paper envisages the non-continuation of the provisions currently contained in law preventing the enforceability of gambling contracts, in accordance with the Report of the Casino Committee, Regulating Gaming in Ireland.
Social Responsibility Measures
There would be statutory underpinning of protection of minors and vulnerable persons e.g. a significant emphasis on statutory measures aimed at preventing or reducing problem gambling.
Options for Regulating Gambling suggests that two kinds of casinos could be defined and permitted:
Registered Casinos, which would be small with no more than a maximum of 15 gaming tables and a maximum of 3 gaming machines per table.
A Resort Casino, would be part of a large-scale complex to include hotel(s), a conference centre, theatre, sporting and other leisure facilities for which powers would also be taken in law. Such facilities could have the potential to contribute significant employment and other revenue generating opportunities. The development of such a facility would be subject to market forces and would receive no special supports from the State. It would however be subject to strict regulation, including on-site regulation.
Responsibility for the regulation of betting could be transferred from the Minister for Finance to the Minister for Justice and Law Reform. The fundamentals of the Betting Act 1931 as amended, would not be significantly changed in terms of the licensing process.
Options for Regulating Gambling suggests that remote gambling i.e. gambling over the internet, mobile phone, and interactive TV could be regulated under strict licensing conditions, irrespective of whether the product is offered from within Ireland, or from off-shore.
Gaming would only be permitted in licensed gaming centres of which there could be two types:
(i) Adult Gaming Centres restricted to over-18s and
(ii) Amusement Centres where under-18s would be permitted to enter, but would not be permitted to gamble.
Revised stakes and payouts
It is envisaged that revised stakes and payouts could be introduced that would be capable of being increased by way of statutory order.
Lotteries are a significant revenue stream for the charities sector and voluntary bodies. It is not the intention of this paper to disadvantage such bodies. It is suggested, however, that the prize limits be amended and that the type of lotteries allowed be streamlined. Special arrangements could be made for on-line lotteries such as on-line Bingo.
The document discusses other matters, such as the effect of taxation on the gambling industry and the relative difference between the online gambling environment and the "bricks and mortar" industry. While taxation, which is a matter for the Minister for Finance, was not part of the review, it is recognised as a crucial part of the new gambling environment.