Alan Shatter TD, Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence has announced that the Government has approved the General Scheme of the Gambling Control Bill 2013.  Work will now get underway on completing the drafting of the Bill.

The Gambling Control Bill 2013 presents a unique opportunity to update the law in this area and to provide for a comprehensive new licensing and regulatory framework for gambling. 

Speaking today, Minister Shatter, said, "This legislation has the twin objective of effectively regulating the new and dynamic gambling sector that has emerged in recent years, while also providing the opportunity to introduce important new measures to protect vulnerable adults and young people. The updated legislation and new regulatory regime will provide for a consistent interpretation and application of the law across all areas of gambling and as a result, it will bring legal certainty to the area. I believe that this Bill will give Ireland a well regulated gambling system that will be recognised as such internationally."

The Gambling Control Bill 2013 will repeal and replace all existing arrangements for the regulation of betting, gaming, bingo and lotteries (except for the National Lottery).  It extends the licensing regime to include on-line and electronic gambling. The Bill also sets out the arrangements for the licensing and supervision of casinos.  Under the Bill, the number of casinos will be limited to 40 and no casino will be permitted to have more than 15 tables.

Minister Shatter continued, "Under the new law, anyone offering a gambling service to anyone in the State, by whatever means and regardless of whether the operator is based in the State or elsewhere, must have a licence.  A new executive agency will act as both the licensing authority and regulator for the sector, and will have responsibility for checking compliance and in enforcing the law generally. The agency will be self-financing, from licence fees and other charges.

Minister Shatter stressed that the new legislation will give added protection to all customers, "I am committed in particular to ensuring that there are effective and robust safeguards in place to protect young people and those for whom gambling has become a problem. The Bill introduces a range of new measures including the introduction of age restrictions; staff training; controls on advertising, promotions and sponsorship; the establishment of a new Social Gambling Fund to assist with treatment services; a new complaints procedure for consumers; and new arrangements to assist consumers seeking compensation from a licence holder." Operators will be required to maintain adequate financial reserves to cover customer entitlements.

Minister Shatter added, "I expect the gambling sector to commit itself in a meaningful way to the concept and practice of socially responsible gambling. I will accept nothing less than high quality services and I will make sure that all operators pay their share for the development of services needed by people for whom gambling has become a problem". 

Technological change more than any other factor has accounted for the expansion in gambling in recent years. Minister Shatter continued, "I will ensure that the new law will have the flexibility necessary to deal with rapid and continuous innovation, in the public interest. The Bill will, for example, include powers to prohibit or restrict certain games or equipment if they are harmful, including devices and games that are not yet in use." 

The legislation now being prepared will include a full ban on fixed odds betting terminals, or FOBT, as they are generally known. This ban reflects the level of concern felt by the Government at the very harmful effects of these terminals.

The Minister has identified as a major priority the need to ensure gambling operations do not come under the control of organised criminal gangs.  For this reason, he is including detailed arrangements to check on the suitability of all licensed operators, including close liaison with the Gardaí, checks on criminal records and arrangements for contacting regulators and law enforcement bodies abroad.

The General Scheme is available on the Department of Justice website www.justice.ie 

15 July 2013

ENDS

 

 

Notes for Editor:

Gambling Control Bill – Heads of Bill

A.  Overview

1)   General

·    See Table below.

·    "Gambling" embraces betting, gaming, amusements.

·    The new legislation will provide a legal basis for the regulation of gambling, including licensing and compliance powers.

·    It will repeal and replace current legislation in the areas of betting, gaming and amusements.

·    While the Tote is not yet included in the Scheme, it is intended to include it in due course, following further examination.

·    The new licensing system will cover, as before, land – based betting and gaming but will extend to casinos and remote gambling.

·    The new Bill will NOT concern itself with taxation. Note, however that Section 49 of the Finance Act 2011 makes arrangement for extension of current Betting Levy to online bets. The section not yet in operation.

·    OGCI – Office for Gambling Control, Ireland – will issue all licences and carry out inspections.

 

A. Current Arrangements

Activity 

Relevant Act

Responsible Minister under the Act 

Licensing, etc procedure

Betting

Betting Act 1931

M/ Finance

·    Apply to M/Justice for ‘certificate of personal fitness’,

·    Present certificate to Revenue and request licence.

·    Licence issued by Revenue.

·    Enforcement is a matter for Gardai and Revenue.

·    The 1931 Act applies to land based bookie shops only.

·    Currently no legal means to licence etc online betting [but the Betting (Amendment) Bill 2012 aims to do so.]

Gaming

Gaming & Lotteries Act 1956

M / Justice

·    Each Local Authority must pass resolution agreeing to operate the 1956 Act in its area, if no resolution, then no gaming arcades permitted in that area.

·    The Act covers arcades, festival –type occasions, raffles, organised card games, bingo, lotteries.

·    Section 4 – casino gaming prohibited.

·    ‘Very small’ events generally do not require any authorisation.

·    ‘Smaller’ events require a permit from Garda Supt.

·    All others – apply to district court for licence, on notice to Gardai. If application granted by the court, licence issued by Revenue. 

·    The 1956 Act relates to land based gaming only.

Amusements

Finance Act 1992 – Part II, Ch III.

M/ Finance

·    Licence issued by Revenue

 

 

 

 

B. New Proposals 

 

 

 

Gambling = [betting, gaming, amusements]

Gambling Control Bill

M / Justice

·    Policy – Minister

·    Executive – OGCI, to receive all applications for all the activities at part A above, plus casinos, assess them, grant / refuse licence.

·    Covers land based and remote gambling (on-line, telephone, etc.)

·    Enforcement by new inspectorate under OGCI

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) Basic Principles of the proposed legislation

·    Only gambling that is licensed under the new legislation may take place.

·    Only OGCI may issue licences (on behalf of the Minister).

·    Those principles will apply equally to both land based services (such as bookmakers’ premises, gaming arcades) and ‘remote’ services (on-line, mobile phone, etc).

·    In addition, the legislation will have the following as key principles:

i. Fairness

ii.            Consumer choice and protection,

iii.           Protection of vulnerable persons (e.g. young, addicted persons)

iv.           Prevention of crime.

 

3) Regulatory Structure

·    There will be a unified national regulatory system for gambling.

·    The Minister for Justice & Equality will be the regulator for gambling.

·    The Minister’s executive regulatory functions (licensing, compliance and enforcement activities) will be discharged by a body provisionally referred to as OGCI [Office for Gambling Control, Ireland].

·    The Minister will retain responsibility for general policy. 

·    OGCI will be based within the Minister’s Department

·    OGCI to be financed by fees, etc from licence applicants and holders.

 

4)   Safeguards

·    These measures aimed at high quality service for all, with additional issues to protect vulnerable persons.

·    All operators will be required to provide to OGCI the result of their evaluation of risks, weaknesses, etc. in their systems.

·    All staff to be trained.

·    Key personnel to have personal licences.

·    Centrally controlled ‘self –exclusion’ system to be established.

·    Many of the safeguards are aimed at ensuring the bona fides and viability of licensees.

·    Detailed checks on financial and personal background are provided for.

·    Equipment must be certified and calibrated.

·    Suppliers of equipment and services must register with OGCI.

·    There are additional measures (below)to protect vulnerable persons, i.e. persons with addiction, heavy gamblers, as well as young persons.

·    The additional measures include age restrictions; staff training; self – exclusion; controls on advertising, promotions and sponsorship; and making publicity available on assistance.

 

B. Particular Areas, Issues 

 

5) Casinos

·    No more than 40 casino licences may be in operation at any time.  There are currently 34 private members’ clubs registered under anti money laundering legislation.

·    Criteria to ensure a regional spread of casinos.

·    Controls on locations – not near schools, health care facilities, etc.

·    Casino licences may be awarded for a period of 10 years, renewable.

·    Only smaller scale casinos are permitted, the size determined by the number of tables (maximum of 15 tables, minimum of 3 tables). 

·    Gaming machines in casinos - a standard multiplier of 2 (machines to tables) is applied, subject to a limit of 25 gaming machines in a casino.

·    Sale of intoxicating liquor may be permitted but restricted to bar hours.

 

6)   Lotteries (other than National Lottery)

·    The Scheme proposes to retain the broad approach to lotteries as is already set out in the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956. 

·    Remote lotteries and scratch card games are to be included.

·    Prize money levels increased with provision for further adjustments.

 

7)  Bingo

·    The Scheme proposes major changes in relation to bingo. 

·    It separates bingo from lotteries (under current law, bingo is a lottery).

·    The rule that bingo must always be for charitable or philanthropic purposes is being relaxed.

·    A link to local interests will be required in most instances.

·    Separate provision is made for licensing remote bingo.

·    Caps are placed on the amount to be allocated to overheads and there are minimum percentages to be allocated to prize money.

 

8) Enforcement and Compliance

·    The Scheme establishes what will be, in effect, an inspectorate for gambling (under the remit of OGCI).

·    The officers will have full powers to search, seize documents, etc.  

·    Court orders may be sought directing service providers, financial institutions, advertising services, etc not to assist unlicensed or non – compliant sites in doing business in the State. 

·    OGCI may cooperate with the Gardaí, Revenue Commissioners, Private Security Authority, etc, as well as with regulators abroad.

·    Offences, penalties listed in Schedule 5.

 

9) Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBT)

·    FOBT are explicitly prohibited under Head 49(7).

·    Specific offences for the use, supply and repair of FOBT

 

10) Other powers to restrict, prohibit, etc

·    As well as the specific prohibition on FOBT, the Minister will have powers to prohibit or restrict any game or machine or class of machine where it is shown to be harmful – head 49(1) –(6).

·    The powers will be available to deal with other, as yet, unknown devices or games if they are harmful.

·    This general approach will enable the authorities to react in different ways to different circumstances and to new and differing equipment.

 

11)  Overlaps etc between gaming and betting

·    It is no longer possible to insist on or to enforce complete separation.

·    The aim is to bring all gambling activity within the licensing and taxation regimes.   

·    Limited gaming to be permitted in betting shops with enforceable terms, accompanied by substantial penalties

·    Cash transactions not permitted in cases of gaming in betting shops – payment to be by electronic means, i.e. an audit trail.

·    The Scheme provides for very small numbers of gaming machines in bars and take-away outlets but only under very strict terms,

 

12)   Social responsibility provisions

·    There will be a Social Gambling Fund, it will be a levy on operators.

·    Its purposes will be to assist with treatment services as well as in research and in educational and information services.

·    It will have a supervisory board to oversee the disbursement of funds, with majority representation from non-industry sources.

·    There will also be a new complaints and compensation procedure, funded by the industry.

  • Gambling contracts will, in future, be enforceable.