Fianna Fáil proposal seeks to improve control of problem gambling, advertising and alleged money laundering
The Irish Fianna Fáil political party is currently mulling a proposal to create a national gambling control office with a mandate to clamp down on gambling addiction, restrict advertising, and tackle alleged money-laundering in the sector, according to a report Tuesday in the Irish Examiner.
The proposal could be introduced to parliament before Christmas, sources told the newspaper.
The party is concerned over continuing delays in addressing gambling problems in an era in which online gambling is growing in popularity. The draft bill seeks to fund the proposed control body via a levy on the gambling industry, and includes provisions to restrict advertising that targets younger demographics using mobile phone apps and internet websites.
There are also stronger self-exclusion and anti-money laundering clauses
A Fianna Fáil spokesperson told the Irish Examiner that such a bill and the controls it imposes is necessary due to the growth of problem gambling in Ireland, and the slow progress being made by successive governments in revamping Ireland’s antiquated gambling laws.
“We need to have an office of gambling control in Ireland,” she said. “There has been a lot of lobbying from the industry against these measures, but we need a real response.”
Recent figures from problem gambling organisation Gambling Aware suggest at least 40,000 people in Ireland have a gambling addiction, with Euro 5 billion spent on various gambling games in the country every year.
Fianna Fáil’s impatience has some justification; a national Gambling Control Bill was approved in principle in 2013 after years of debate and promises, but it has made minimal progress since despite gambling companies urging the government to move faster.
The Gaming and Leisure Association of Ireland (GALA) and the Irish Bookmakers Association have both urged regulation and a streamlining of archaic licensing procedures, saying that these are necessary to attract fresh investment in the land and online sectors.
Junior Justice Minister David Stanton has claimed that work is progressing on the Gambling Control Bill, but he has also caused confusion with statements that he is considering the establishment of a regulator in “shadow form.”
He has declined to elaborate on this issue and has not consulted the industry on his ideas and intentions.
Earlier this year Stanton also tasked his staff with drafting legislation to make 23 amendments to the outdated 1956 legislation, some of which touch on issues the Gambling Control Bill is meant to address.
Titled Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, these amending laws have reportedly been sent to the Attorney General for scrutiny.
Gambling companies have said this is a distraction from the main objective of reform via the Gambling Control Act and is causing unnecessary delays and complications, and the Fianna Fáil proposal increases the level of confusion.
A spokesman for the minister said:
“A review of the General Scheme of the Gambling Control Bill, published in 2013, is continuing in the Department of Justice. A number of issues are being considered as part of this review.”