304. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice when measures will be introduced to curb online gambling in view of the well-documented problems arising from such gambling; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38884/21]
Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy James Browne): The Programme for Government contains a commitment to establish a gambling regulator focused on public safety and well-being, covering gambling online and in person, and the powers to regulate advertising, gambling websites and apps.
As outlined in the Justice Plan 2021, I expect to be in a position to publish the Scheme of the Bill in Q3 2021, and will seek Government approval for the drafting of the Bill on that basis.
Work is underway in my Department on the legislation to develop the necessary modern licensing and regulatory provisions for the gambling industry. This involves a major updating of the proposals of the General Scheme of the Gambling Control Bill which was published in 2013.
A considerable amount of further work has been done in the meantime. The Inter-Departmental Working Group on Future Licensing and Regulation of Gambling reported in 2019 and a European Commission funded report on the structure of a gambling regulator was produced in late 2019. The task now is to bring all three elements together, and having regard to the on-going evolution of the gambling industry, into one coherent scheme of a Bill that will deliver on the Programme for Government commitment.
My objective is to ensure that gambling will be a safe, fair, crime free and entertaining activity for the majority of those who take part in it. The new legislation will ensure that the regulatory authority is given sufficient powers to protect consumers and, in particular, minors and those vulnerable to problem gambling behaviour.
It is envisaged that operators offering activities in whole or in part online, will be subject to the same licensing terms and conditions as any other licensee, with any necessary additions. When established, the regulator will have the necessary enforcement powers for licensing and powers to take action where individuals or operators are failing to follow rules and regulations.
In addition to the publication of the General Scheme, it is intended to finalise the appointment of a CEO Designate by the end of the year, providing a clear path towards the regulator being fully operational in early 2023.