Government approves publication of the Gambling Regulation Bill
Government approves publication of the Gambling Regulation Bill
The publication of the Gambling Regulation Bill (the Bill) has just been approved by the Government. Taoiseach Micheál Martin stated that the Bill has been designed to meet the challenges of gambling responsibly in the 21st century and endeavours to "take a responsible approach to balancing the freedom to gamble with the safeguards to protect people from falling prey to addiction".
The Bill will introduce a streamlined licensing regime for the gambling sector, providing a clear framework for operators and consumers alike. The establishment of the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland (the Authority) is at the heart of the Bill and will have a significant role in regulating gambling and ensuring that gambling laws are enforced. Restrictions on advertising and sponsorship will also be key elements in the new regulatory framework, as will a formal ban on using credit facilities to gamble.
A comprehensive new licensing regime
The Bill will replace the currently fragmented regime with three broad licence types that will be available to retail and online operators. These include:
"Business to consumer" licences (for gaming, betting and lotteries)
"Business to business" licences
Gambling licences for charitable/philanthropic causes
Public policy considerations / advertising restrictions
The government has asserted that public policy and the best interests of the people are prioritised in the Bill, alluding to this legislation as a "national public health initiative". The Bill takes into consideration the impact that gambling addiction has on families and communities, and introduces various safeguards to ensure public safety / wellbeing for children and the vulnerable members of society.
The Minister with direct responsibility for the legislation (James Browne TD), announced that the Bill will:
Introduce a watershed that will ban gambling advertising between 5.30am and 9pm daily which includes social media platforms
Prohibit advertising on social media unless a person opts-in to receiving adverts
Prohibit advertising which promotes excessive or compulsive gambling
Prohibit children on any premises where gambling takes place and restrictions on gambling advertising on events involving children
Apply restrictions to the sponsorship of sports clubs with underage teams
However, the Bill is only likely to provide a broad brush approach to the scope and breadth of the new licensing and regulatory regime. The detail (including the potential restrictions or prohibitions) is likely to be determined by the regulator and addressed in regulatory codes rather than being fixed in the Bill.
Social impact fund: The Bill also provides for the establishment of a social impact fund which will be created and managed by the Authority and funded by mandatory donations from the industry (with exceptions granted to charitable and philanthropic licencees). This fund will be used to finance initiatives to reduce problem gambling and support awareness-raising and educational measures.
National gambling exclusion register: The Bill will create a register whereby individuals who are struggling with gambling addiction can choose to self-exclude. This will place an onus on online gambling operators to not engage with these customers and to direct them to services which can assist them.
Efforts to combat impulse spending: The Bill prohibits the use of credit facilities (including credit cards) to gamble. ATM machines will also be banned from gambling facilities in an effort to combat impulse spending and easy access to money when gambling.
Restrictions on inducements: The Bill will enable the Authority to prohibit/restrict the offer of inducements to entice individuals to gamble. This may include promotions such as free bets and VIP or preferential treatment. However, we also expect that the specific detail around the extent of any such restrictions will be a matter for the regulator rather than fixed in the Bill.
Establishment of an independent regulator: Under the Bill, the Authority will have a dominant role in setting the parameters within which the industry operates. This includes monitoring compliance, control and licensing of gambling activity in Ireland, taking enforcement actions (including administrative sanctions procedures) against non-compliant providers and imposing administrative financial sanctions where appropriate.
The CEO-designate Anne Marie Caulfield will have a key role in executing these functions and setting the tone for the industry in Ireland. We understand that the active recruitment of employees for the Authority is well underway. Similar to other Irish regulators such as the CBI and DPC, the Authority will operate on the basis of due processes and fairness in accordance with the Irish Constitution.
Potential fine amounts: Under the Bill, the Authority may take appropriate enforcement actions against any person/business who provides a gambling activity without a gambling licence issued by the Authority, or does not operate in accordance with the type of licence held. The Authority has the administrative sanction procedure power to apply administrative financial sanctions to such individuals or businesses. These sanctions, (though subject to Court approval), will include the imposition of fines of up to €20m or 10% of turnover, whichever is higher.
However, in certain situations there may also be criminal prosecution and if found guilty, individuals may be convicted for up to eight years imprisonment or found liable to pay a fine, which will be at the discretion of the Court.
Next steps and timing
We will be closely monitoring the detailed provisions of the Bill once it is published. Publication is expected in the next week or so. We will also be monitoring the establishment of the new Gaming Regulatory Authority as it gains new employees and will continue to provide regular updates on material developments. If you have any queries on how this Bill will affect your business, please contact Joe Kelly, partner, Katie O’Connor, partner or any member of ALG's Betting, Gaming and Licensing team.
Date published: 16 November 2022
 The National Lottery is not included in the Bill and remains covered by the National Lottery Act 2013.
 Based on the wording of the "General Scheme" it would seem that such advertising would still be permitted where there is consent in place, or as regards to persons who have signed up to a licence holder's service. However, we will provide more clarity on this when we can review the detail of the Bill itself (and in due course any subsequent regulatory codes) to assess the practical scope of any such prohibition/restriction.
 A policy decision has been made not to apply this to in-person betting due to the practical difficulties which this may create.