The Regulatory “Wild West”: Irish ministers bicker while industry makes-do

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For four decades, Ireland’s gaming and amusements trade association have lobbied successive governments to update the country’s archaic legislation. For four decades, Irish ministers have left the gambling industry to develop into a regulatory “Wild West” – forcing operators to make the best of a bad situation. And yet, still no solution.

Despite being told for over forty years that Ireland’s gambling legislation needs updating, Irish ministers continue to exploit the situation to score political points,rather than fix it to support the industry and its players.

This comes after an investigation by The Times last week, which revealed what everybody in the Irish Government and the gambling industry has known for decades: The industry needs comprehensive regulation.

Fianna FáilTD Jack Chambers said the newspaper’s investigation into casinos operating in Dublin city centre highlights the need for Ireland’s “archaic gambling laws” to be urgently updated, comparing the regulatory landscape to that of the “WildWest”. By this, Chambers is referring to the fact that operators are largely self-regulating in Ireland – although not by choice, but by inaction and inconsistency from the Irish Government.

The 1956 Gaming and Lotteries Act still provides the legislative framework for the industry,however it is disproportionately applied across the country throughout different local jurisdictions. According to the Irish Amusements Trades Association, this application of the law is not in compliance with recent EU rulings, and it is now following up its 40 years of lobbying for legislative change with legal action.

“For four decades IATA has lobbied successive governments in an effort to update Ireland’s archaic 1956 Gaming and Lotteries Act. Currently can but hope that one of these bills, which are very similar and will modernise gaming legislation, will get through the Dail in the next 12 months,” commented the association’s general secretary John Roche.

“IATA believes that the current legislation which disproportionately applies the 1956 Gaming Act throughout the country is not in compliance with recent European Court of Justice judgements.We are currently in the process of taking legal action to vindicate our position in relation to these judgements.”

It is ironic, then, that ministers such as Chambers accuse some Dublin casino operators in Ireland of “openly bending laws”, while at the same time,call- ing for a “properly empowered regulator”. The 27-years-young opposition spokesperson for defence wasn’t even a twinkle in his father’s eye when the industry began to ask for updated legislation.

“This is now in the hands of ministers,” stated Chambers, calling on Fianna Gael junior justice minister David Stanton to allow his Gambling Control Bill to proceed.

But perhaps he shouldn’t get too optimistic, as the industry’s regulatory “Wild West” has been in the hands of ministers the whole time – and they’ve been about as useful as barking at a knot.

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