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Question

39. Deputy Noel Rock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if she will consider introducing legislation enforcing gambling debts to be paid by casinos, bookmakers and online gambling services to customers and vice versa; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15528/17]

62. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the reason for the delay in publishing gambling legislation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15668/17]

Answer

Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 and 62 together.
Section 36 on the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 provides that gaming and wagering contracts are void and no action shall lie for the recovery of money alleged to have been won or lost. This is a long standing provision of public policy.
In the case of Sporting Index Limited v John O'Shea [2015] INEC 407, the High Court found that the Irish public policy against enforcement of gambling bets outweighed the rights, under the Brussels Regulation, to have judgments of EU courts enforced in Member States. In the case very recently reported from the Circuit Civil Court, a person was denied full payment of a claimed win on a gaming machine. Again, the Court pointed to the long standing public policy on non-enforcement of gambling debts. These two particular cases may not be typical of normal interaction between gaming operators and their clients and we should not be alarmist.
While the General Scheme of the Gambling Control Bill in 2013 proposed the ending of the centuries old ban on legal enforcement of gambling debts as a feature of public policy, I am of the view that the matter would bear significant further consideration both by the Government and by the Oireachtas. This consideration would have to include: the conditions on how gambling debts might be made enforceable by our courts, would it apply only to regulated and licensed forms of gambling and the impact of standard commercial practices, consumer protection and provision of credit.
We would need to think very carefully as to the full range of possible consequences for all parties concerned. I have no decided view at this point, as to whether we should make this change to public policy. I welcome the views that Deputies may have to offer.
As I have very recently conveyed to the House, it remains the intention to proceed with gambling legislation at the earliest opportunity. The preparation of a Gambling Control Bill continues on that basis. However, it should be acknowledged that it will require some significant updating to take account of developments since 2013. The preparation of legislation will be a major and complex undertaking. Gambling is now a huge multi-billion euro economic activity, with significant cross-border and electronic on-line operations. I have special responsibility in this area and with Departmental officials am actively engaged in further consideration and research, including consultations with relevant stakeholders. While the exact nature of new regulatory approaches with regard to all forms of gambling activities remains to be decided, we should be aware that the outcome will have resource implications.
I should also add that work on the preparation of the General Scheme of the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill is at an advanced stage in the Department. This Bill will contain some early amendments to gaming legislation providing for a rage of useful modernisation and clarification measures to the outdated Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956. In particular, it would address issues concerning the minimum age for gambling activities, authorising realistic stake and prize amounts and a clearer setting out of the circumstances for the permitting and conduct of certain gaming and lottery activities.