Minister Browne publishes General Scheme of Gambling Regulation Bill
- Legislation will tackle critical deficiencies and represents a substantial modernisation and reform of the regulation of gambling in Ireland.
21 October 2021
The Minister of State for Law Reform, Youth Justice and Immigration, James Browne TD, has today published the General Scheme of the Gambling Regulation Bill. The Programme for Government gives a clear 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. The Scheme was approved by Government earlier this week.
Speaking today, Minister Browne said,
“The publication of the General Scheme is an important milestone towards the effective regulation of gambling in Ireland under the new, independent statutory body – the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland. The Scheme sets out the framework and legislative basis for how we will do this”
“We all accept that the current legislative framework is fragmented, outdated, lacks a coherent licensing and regulatory approach, and is in need of significant reform. Now is the time to finally address this issue comprehensively, once and for all. I believe that the legislative underpinning of this new Authority will be essential to its success and I am committed to taking this forward. There will be opportunities for further stakeholder engagement and input as part of the pre-legislative scrutiny process.”
The Scheme takes into account the recommendations of expert reports including the Inter-Departmental Working Group Report (published in March 2019); analysis of the regulatory approaches in other jurisdictions; and the nature of gambling in the State. It also recognises the ever-increasing impact of technology on gambling and addresses the proliferation of gambling related advertising.
The Authority will have among its key objectives:
- Ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way for companies to make decisions in certainty;
- Requiring safeguards to address problem gambling including in relation to gambling advertising; and
- Preventing gambling from being a source or support to crime.
Commenting on the enforcement powers envisaged for the Authority, Minister Browne said,
“The Authority will have the necessary enforcement powers for licensing and to enable it to take appropriate and focused action where providers are failing to comply with the provisions of this legislation.”
“I have established a Programme Board within my own Department to ensure that the legislation and the operational preparations are progressed in parallel so that the Authority commences operations as soon as possible after enactment. There is a pathway mapped for this legislation progressing, which will facilitate the Authority being established and operational in 2023. ”
Noting that the legislation also includes measures and safeguards to address problem gambling, the protection of children, to ensure public safety and well-being, and consumer protection. Minister Browne said,
“While gambling activity is enjoyed safely and responsibly by the majority of people in Ireland, we are of course all aware of the ill-effects of problem gambling for individuals, their families and for society as a whole. That is why we are establishing a Social Impact Fund under the Authority to finance research and information, to support public education and awareness raising measures in relation to problem gambling and to appropriately support problem gambling treatment activities by relevant health professionals. An advisory committee will be established to assist and advise the Authority on the administration and management of the Fund.”
As part of Budget 2022, €500,000 has been allocated to meet the costs of appointing the CEO designate as well as non-pay related costs in establishing the Authority. This is added to the initial seed funding of €200,000 in Budget 2021. This €700,000 will cover start-up costs including accommodation and professional services.
The General Scheme of the Gambling Regulation Bill can be viewed at: General Scheme of the Gambling Regulation Bill
Notes for Editors:
The General Scheme will now be submitted for drafting to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel. The General Scheme will also be referred to the Oireachtas Justice Committee for pre-legislative scrutiny.
The General Scheme consists of 142 Heads.
Part Two – Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland
- Part Two of the General Scheme provides for the establishment of an independent Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland, with a board and appointed CEO management / governance structure. The Authority will be responsible for:
- the proper and effective licensing and regulation of gambling activities in the State;
- requiring safeguards to address problem gambling, including in relation to the advertising of gambling and sponsorship by gambling providers; and
- preventing gambling from being a source or support to crime;
Part Three – Licences and Licensing
- Part Three provides for licensing of gambling in the State, both in-person and remotely / online. The proposed licensing structure provides for a horizontal licensing model based around the following three broad categories of licence:
- a Business to Consumer category;
- a Business to Business category; and,
- a specific category of licence to regulate gambling activities for charitable and philanthropic purposes.
- This approach streamlines the existing regulatory framework. Other key provisions in this Part provide for Authority’s extensive powers in respect of licensing, such as compliance and audit assessments, with a clear link to sanctions and enforcement where the terms and conditions of a licence are breached.
Part 4 – Compliance and Enforcement
- As outlined in Part 4, the Authority will have the necessary and appropriate powers to enforce the proposed licensing regime. This will include specific powers of inspection, investigation including search (where appropriate) of gambling providers and their premises.
- It provides for the legal liability of both the licence holder and the responsible officers of that provider, and sets out a range of relevant offences.
- A key feature of the Authority’s statutory power will be to impose administrative sanctions and take appropriate enforcement actions against non-compliant providers such as:
- suspension or revocation of a provider’s licence(s),
- administrative financial sanctions,
- blocking of remote or online access to a provider’s service(s) in Ireland,
- shutting down a provider’s operations
- freezing bank accounts and other assets
- blocking payments to a provider.
- The administrative financial sanctions will be a robust tool for the Authority and it will have the flexibility of scaling such sanctions in a proportionate manner. These sanctions, subject to Court confirmation, will range from fines of up to:
- €20 million in the case of an individual; to
- €20 million or 10% of relevant turnover in a financial year where the provider is not an individual.
Part 5 – Safeguards, Advertising, Sponsorship and Social Impact Fund
- The Authority will have the ability to address advertisement of gambling across all forms of media, as well as addressing the issue of sponsorship by gambling companies.
- The approach here importantly reflects that the Authority cannot address all these issues in isolation or unilaterally, and recognises the importance of cooperation between all bodies with responsibility for advertising, as well as the importance of consultation with concerned stakeholders.
- The Authority will be empowered to issue codes, tied to enforceable sanctions for breach of terms and conditions of a licence, to address advertising, and to regulate promotions and sponsorship by licence holders. This approach will provide the Authority with greater flexibility in addressing current concerns and future developments. Some of these measures to be included in the codes are:
- the times and frequency which gambling advertising can appear on television , radio, and other media platforms each day; and
- a prohibition on the use of children or elements which may appeal to children in advertisements.
- Equally as important, Part 5 also includes measures and safeguards to address problem gambling, the protection of children, to ensure public safety and well-being, and consumer protection including:
- prohibitions on the offer of inducements such as free bets, VIP or preferential treatment etc.;
- prohibitions on the offer of credit or credit facilities to players;
- spending limits where practicable;
- restricting payment methods (such as credit cards);
- requirements around warnings and messaging; and
- prohibiting children from gambling and employing children in connection with gambling services.
- In addition, this Part will also establish a Social Impact Fund for the purposes of financing research and information, education and awareness raising measures, and appropriately supporting problem gambling treatment activities by relevant health professionals.
Part 6 – Appeals
- Part 6 sets out an independent appeal system and process for licence holders, applicants for licences and consumers, with recourse to the standard legal appeal mechanisms.