Gambling Regulation Bill flagged as 'priority' legislation in Government's 2022 legislative programme
Gambling Regulation Bill flagged as ‘priority’ legislation in Government’s 2022 legislative programme
The General Scheme of the Gambling Regulation Bill which was unveiled on 21 October 2021 has been included in the list of 'priority legislation' scheduled for drafting and publication during the first half of this year. Its inclusion in the 2022 legislative programme signals a strong commitment from Government to progress this regulatory reform.
Anticipated timeframe for new legislation and establishment of regulator
In early 2021, the Department of Justice outlined its targeted timeframes for the reform of Irish gambling law and the establishment of a regulator in its 'Justice Plan 2021' and the 'Statement of Strategy 2021-2023'. The Justice Plan envisaged that the fully independent gambling regulator would be operational by early 2023 (when it stated the planned legislation was expected to come into force). It had contemplated that the responsibilities of the Director/CEO designate of the new statutory gambling regulator would be finalised in Q2 2021, followed by the advertisement of that executive position and appointment of the new regulator in Q3 2021.
Although the envisaged timelines have not been fully adhered to, the inclusion of Bill on the list of priority legislation for 2022, and the setting aside of €500,000 in this year's budget for the establishment of the new regulator in parallel with the legislative process, is evidence that the reform of Irish gambling laws remains a key priority.
What will be covered in the legislation?
In brief, this long anticipated legislation will establish an independent gambling regulator, to be known as the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland. It will introduce a comprehensive licensing regime for all forms gambling activities in Ireland – including gaming, betting and lotteries (albeit not the National Lottery). The gambling regulator will have a key focus on consumer protection, public safety and wellbeing. In particular, it will have the power to regulate advertising and sponsorship. It will also have a broad range of enforcement tools at its disposal. For further details of what's proposed, see our bulletin on the General Scheme of the Gambling Regulation Bill here.
Broader regulatory developments impacting digital operators
It is also worth noting in this context the recent publication of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill (OSMR). This legislation will regulate online safety and provides for the establishment of a new Media Commission, which will replace the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). The Media Commission will include an Online Safety Commissioner who will be tasked with enforcing the online safety aspects of the legislation, as well as forthcoming EU legislation in the area (the Digital Services Act).
Interestingly, in her press release unveiling this draft legislation, Minister for Tourism & Media, Catherine Martin TD, also referenced the creation of a gambling regulator, which she described as being a "vital part of a new network of digital regulators both across the EU and in Ireland." This also points to impetus behind the gambling legislative reform agenda.
In summary, while there has been some slippage of the timelines previously envisaged, Irish gambling law reform is pushing ahead. As matters stand, 2023 remains in sight as a reasonable timeframe for the establishment of the regulator and the introduction of the planned new licensing and regulatory regime.
We will continue to keep you updated on key developments in this area as they occur.