On 2 December 2022, the Irish Government published The Gambling Regulation Bill (the Bill).
The Bill comprises 9 Parts and 218 sections and is the most significant reform of gambling legislation in Ireland to date. A central theme of the Bill is the protection of consumers and the vulnerable. Tánaiste Martin noted that it “…takes a responsible approach to balancing the freedom to gamble with the safeguards to protect people from falling prey to addiction. This bill provides a clearer framework for operators and for consumers.”
In brief, the purpose of the Bill is to provide for:
- The establishment of the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland (GRAI)
- Funding of the GRAI
- The establishment and maintenance of a register of licensees in Ireland and a National Gambling Exclusion Register
- The establishment of a Social Impact Fund
- The imposition of obligations on licensees relating to advertising, promotion and sponsorship
- A prohibition of children participating in gambling or being employed by the gambling industry
- Ensuring compliance with licence conditions and enforcement measures
The Bill, once signed into law, will repeal the Totalisator Act 1929, the Betting Act 1931, and the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956. It is hoped that the Bill will enter into force by mid-2023, in a phased commencement.
Over the next three news updates, we will break down the above facets of the Bill.
Establishment of the GRAI
Part 2 of the Bill provides for the establishment of the GRAI. Section 14 of the Bill sets out the general functions of the GRAI which include:
- The licensing, supervision and control of gambling activities in Ireland
- The establishment and maintenance of a register of gambling licensees
- The establishment and maintenance of the Social Impact Fund
- The establishment of standards for gambling products or gambling related services for sale or supply by Business to Business licensees
- The imposition of obligations on licensees and other persons in relation to advertising, branded clothing and merchandise
- The imposition of obligations on licensees in relation to the protection of children, sponsorship, training of staff, notification of suspicious gambling patterns and the maintenance of accounts and records
- The monitoring and enforcement of compliance
- The enhancement of public awareness in respect of licensing and regulation of gambling products
- The conducting of research in relation to gambling activities
The GRAI will compose of seven members to be appointed by the Minister. The Minister will appoint one of those seven members as a chairperson.
In September 2022, Anne Marie Caulfield was appointed CEO Designate of the GRAI. Since appointment, Ms. Caulfield has worked closely with the government to identify staffing and resourcing needs and to develop procedures for how the GRAI will function once operational.
Codes of Practice
Section 30 of the Bill provides the GRAI with the power to prepare and adopt codes of practice (Codes) for the purpose of:
- Setting standards for the provision of relevant gambling activities
- Providing practical guidance to licensees in relation to the application and operation of the Bill or any regulations made under it
The GRAI will publish adopted Codes on its website and will specify the date from which the Code is effective, which shall not be earlier than 7 days from the date of publication of the Code.
Licensees will be expected to comply with the Codes once effective and failure to do so shall be admissible in proceedings under the Bill in respect of alleged contraventions by licensees of conditions attaching to licences or of obligations under the Bill.
Prior to issuing a Code the GRAI is required to consult with the Minister, however there is no obligation to consult with licence holders. The Codes, once published, are expected to cover areas such as advertising, sponsorship, and the promotion of gambling.
Social Impact Fund (the Fund)
GRAI will establish and maintain the Fund, which will be funded by way of annual contribution payable by each licensee based on a percentage of the licensee’s turnover.
The annual contribution does not apply to Charitable/Philanthropic licensees. The Minister is expected to release regulations regarding the calculation of the annual contribution before the Fund is established.
National Gambling Exclusion Register (Register)
The GRAI will establish and maintain a Register of individuals who have applied to exclude themselves from relevant gambling activities for a specified exclusion period. An account holder can apply to be removed from the Register where the exclusion period has expired. Where the exclusion period was set as indefinite then a minimum period of twelve months must expire before an account holder can be taken off the Register.
Where an account holder is added to the Register, any money sitting in their account must be refunded by the licence holder. The Register does not apply to in-person gambling. Where a licensee fails to exclude an individual who is named on the Register, there can be fines imposed and a period of imprisonment of up to 5 years for those responsible.
Overall, the Bill marks a significant point of reform for Ireland’s outdated gambling laws. The Bill reached the third stage on 6 December 2022. It is anticipated that it will be enacted into law in 2023, with the new regulatory regime coming into effect shortly thereafter. For the moment, the existing regime is still in force.
In next week's news article, we will discuss the new licensing regime under the Bill. For more information on Ireland and other gaming jurisdictions, check out Incesight, your digital assistant that helps you keep up to date with ever-changing regulation updates.