The Gambling Control Bill first proposed almost half a decade ago is finally set to move forward this year as Ireland’s minister of state aims to set-up a 100- employee-strong regulator for the industry by 2020.
After almost five frustrating years of feet-dragging and delays, Ireland’s Fine Gael goverment is finally getting itself on track to launch an independent regulator in 2020.
David Stanton, the country’s minister of state, has said he hopes to push legislation forward significantly this year, first by amending the 1956 Act for gaming machines to include online gaming, and then by publishing the draft of the comprehensive Gambling Control Bill, followed by the full Bill.
Such progress has been long awaited by the country’s gaming trade bodies, including the Irish Amusements Trade Association. Stanton has defended the delay on the basis that there have been huge changes happening within the gaming industry, however this is simply the nature of technology-based industries, and it is up to the government to keep-up.
Perhaps this will be easier once the minister’s proposed “big beast” regulator is set-up, with Stanton suggesting the independent body will comprise of over 100 staff.
He added that the regulator’s office,when established, would deal with problem gambling, advertising, sponsorship, underage gambling, promotions, and the myriad of online offerings including “games”,“virtual betting”and continuous betting.
In fact, it would appear that the regulation of online gambling will take up a large portion of the body’s resources, with Stanton singling out the sector as a particular challenge.
“With internet gambling you could lose your house overnight online,” he said. “This is the area we need to regulate, as well as the advertising and glamorising of gambling.”
He also expressed concerns that children were being ‘groomed’ by online games which are a precursor to gambling sites,adding that new laws would prohibit activities that encourage children into gambling.This may include the use of loot boxes in video games, however Stanton left the question;“is that gambling or not gambling?” up for debate.
For Ireland’s amusement operators, the proposed Gambling Control Bill couldn’t come soon enough, with the sector still forced to work with legislation passed over half a century ago.However, despite the industry and government’s mutual eagerness to pass the Bill, both sides must ensure that the emotion surrounding problem gambling in the UK doesn’t cross the Irish Sea.
While online gaming has popped-up to serve adults- only in the last 25 years, sea- side amusements have been entertaining whole families, including children, for many generations.The two activities, while both technically ‘gambling’, could not be more different, and so any proposed legislation will only be successful if it treats the wider gambling industry with the appropriate amount of nuance, and recognises that the low stake amusements sector has been socially responsible long before it became a buzzword.