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Home > Seanad Éireann debate. Future of gambling regulation: statements.

[Oireachtas] Seanad Éireann debate. Future of gambling regulation: statements. (23 Apr 2021)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/seanad...


Minister of State Deputy James Browne I am pleased to have this opportunity to update the Seanad on progress made by my Department to establish an independent gambling regulator for Ireland focused on public safety and well-being.

 

As Senators will be aware, gambling reform has been in development for some time. The industry is large and complex. It is continuously evolving through technological development and many of our current arrangements are well outdated. Effective reform, therefore, requires fundamental and significant change.

 

To date, much good work and progress has already been made. My plans now are to advance the necessary legislation to drive forward this long sought reform. In doing so, I am determined to deliver on my Department's legislative programme to put in place a modern licensing and regulatory regime for the Irish gambling industry.

 

We have established a programme board in the Department of Justice to oversee the work and ensure that the different streams are progressed in parallel. The aim is to minimise the time between the enactment of the legislation and the date on which the regulator commences operations. We are targeting definitive milestones in the year ahead, and there is a clear pathway towards the gambling regulator being operational in early 2023.

 

I will now outline some of the key areas being considered. First and foremost, the new regulator will be an independent body established on a statutory footing. This reflects the recommendations in the 2019 report of the interdepartmental working group on future licensing and regulation of gambling.

 

The current regulatory approach, which is spread widely across a range of Departments and agencies, is fragmented. As such it facilitates an inconsistent regulatory environment and makes licensing of gambling activities cumbersome. It also limits the potential for revenue raising possibilities from licensing fees, duties and taxation. The new regulator will, when fully operational, assume all of the current gambling licensing and regulatory responsibilities as well as new and more extensive enforcement duties.

 

The current preparatory work involves a major updating of the proposals of the general scheme of the gambling control Bill published in 2013. It is envisaged that the draft general scheme will go to Government by the end of quarter 3 of 2021. The position of a CEO designate would also be advertised in quarter 3 this year with a finalised appointment scheduled for quarter 4. These will be important milestones. They will achieve objectives set out in my Department's statement of strategy and Justice Plan 2021, and build on the programme for Government's commitment to establish a gambling regulator. This commitment is very much directed towards the protection of the public and the gambling customer. The regulator will have a major role in this regard.

 

In developing the general scheme, we will consider possible measures to promote safer gambling. This may involve limitations on advertising and promotions, on bonus offers and so-called VIP schemes. When it is established, the regulator will have the necessary enforcement powers for licensing and powers to take action where individuals or operators fail to follow rules and regulations. Its key objectives will be as follows: to prevent gambling from being a source or support to crime; to ensure that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way for companies to make decisions in certainty; and to require the promotion of safe and responsible gambling, and to combat problem gambling.

 

Operators offering activities in whole or in part online will be subject to the licensing terms and conditions similar to other licensees with any necessary additions. The regulator, therefore, will cover online and in-person gambling and will also have the powers to regulate advertising, gambling websites and apps.

 

Gambling activity impacts society in Ireland in a number of ways. It is of significant economic impact. The interdepartmental working group report estimated the value of the Irish gambling market annually as being between €6 billion and €8 billion and employs upwards of 8,000 people. That said, it is important to strike a balance between the needs of business and the social implications of gambling.

 

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Minister of State Deputy James Browne I am pleased to have this opportunity to update the Seanad on progress made by my Department to establish an independent gambling regulator for Ireland focused on public safety and well-being.

 

As Senators will be aware, gambling reform has been in development for some time. The industry is large and complex. It is continuously evolving through technological development and many of our current arrangements are well outdated. Effective reform, therefore, requires fundamental and significant change.

 

To date, much good work and progress has already been made. My plans now are to advance the necessary legislation to drive forward this long sought reform. In doing so, I am determined to deliver on my Department's legislative programme to put in place a modern licensing and regulatory regime for the Irish gambling industry.

 

We have established a programme board in the Department of Justice to oversee the work and ensure that the different streams are progressed in parallel. The aim is to minimise the time between the enactment of the legislation and the date on which the regulator commences operations. We are targeting definitive milestones in the year ahead, and there is a clear pathway towards the gambling regulator being operational in early 2023.

 

I will now outline some of the key areas being considered. First and foremost, the new regulator will be an independent body established on a statutory footing. This reflects the recommendations in the 2019 report of the interdepartmental working group on future licensing and regulation of gambling.

 

The current regulatory approach, which is spread widely across a range of Departments and agencies, is fragmented. As such it facilitates an inconsistent regulatory environment and makes licensing of gambling activities cumbersome. It also limits the potential for revenue raising possibilities from licensing fees, duties and taxation. The new regulator will, when fully operational, assume all of the current gambling licensing and regulatory responsibilities as well as new and more extensive enforcement duties.

 

The current preparatory work involves a major updating of the proposals of the general scheme of the gambling control Bill published in 2013. It is envisaged that the draft general scheme will go to Government by the end of quarter 3 of 2021. The position of a CEO designate would also be advertised in quarter 3 this year with a finalised appointment scheduled for quarter 4. These will be important milestones. They will achieve objectives set out in my Department's statement of strategy and Justice Plan 2021, and build on the programme for Government's commitment to establish a gambling regulator. This commitment is very much directed towards the protection of the public and the gambling customer. The regulator will have a major role in this regard.

 

In developing the general scheme, we will consider possible measures to promote safer gambling. This may involve limitations on advertising and promotions, on bonus offers and so-called VIP schemes. When it is established, the regulator will have the necessary enforcement powers for licensing and powers to take action where individuals or operators fail to follow rules and regulations. Its key objectives will be as follows: to prevent gambling from being a source or support to crime; to ensure that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way for companies to make decisions in certainty; and to require the promotion of safe and responsible gambling, and to combat problem gambling.

 

Operators offering activities in whole or in part online will be subject to the licensing terms and conditions similar to other licensees with any necessary additions. The regulator, therefore, will cover online and in-person gambling and will also have the powers to regulate advertising, gambling websites and apps.

 

Gambling activity impacts society in Ireland in a number of ways. It is of significant economic impact. The interdepartmental working group report estimated the value of the Irish gambling market annually as being between €6 billion and €8 billion and employs upwards of 8,000 people. That said, it is important to strike a balance between the needs of business and the social implications of gambling.

 Vol. 275 no. 8

[Click here for full debate on the Oireachtas website]

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