Regulation surrounding casinos, betting sites, and online slots is currently undergoing a drastic change in Ireland. The passing of the Gambling Regulatory Bill in 2022 is one of the largest-ever developments in Irish betting regulations. The bill is set to introduce a new independent regulator into the betting market in Ireland. This independent regulator will be in charge of a variety of areas of betting including advertising, licensing, and the promotion of gambling to younger audiences. This vast swath of changes will drastically impact the rapidly growing online gambling industry within Ireland. Sports betting, online slots, and casinos will all need to adapt to this new regulation quickly to succeed in this market. This article will consider how casinos in Ireland are currently regulated and how this is set to change with the passing of the Gambling Regulatory Bill in 2022.
Current legislation surrounding the regulation of casinos within Ireland is admittedly very outdated, especially compared to other countries in Western Europe. Regulation within Ireland is largely based on the Gaming and Lotteries Act of 1956 and the Betting Act of 1931. These two pieces of legislation primarily focused on in-person gambling at sporting events, casinos, and slots. However, the gambling scene within Ireland has changed drastically with the introduction of online betting and casinos. The online gambling market has exploded within Ireland and the industry has a current annual value of $5.3 billion. Moreover, the user pool has also increased drastically from 20 million players in 2009 to 34 million in 2020. Ireland makes up 2.2% of gambling revenue in Europe despite only being 1.1% of the total population. Therefore, given how dated the legislative framework is for gambling regulation, it is no surprise that
There have been some limited introductions to help deal with this rapidly growing industry. The National Lottery Act was introduced in 2013 to limit the number of casinos to 25 in the country, with each casino allowed 15 gaming tables and 25 machines at each of their locations. The bill also banned sportsbooks and sports betting terminals of any kind. Moreover, in 2015 the Betting Act of 1931 was amended to try and deal with the main goal of tackling online betting. This amendment introduced three different types of licenses: retail bookmaker licenses, licenses for remote bookmakers offering betting deals to customers in Ireland (often referred to as online betting sites), and a license for betting exchanges. The amendment also introduced a license fee of €10,000 and introduced a maximum penalty for those breaking license agreements of €300,000, and up to 5 years in prison for repeat offenders. Therefore, there have been some limited attempts to regulate online casinos and bookmakers in Ireland.
However, despite this considerable increase in regulation, with the industry changing so rapidly there have been calls to increase the level of regulation in Ireland. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar admitted in 2019 that there was a drastic need to update betting regulations in the country. This has led to the introduction of the Gambling Regulatory Bill in 2022 which will drastically change the landscape for Irish casinos. The largest addition to this bill is that Irish gambling will be regulated by a singular independent party. Previously, the Department of Justice and Equality, the Irish Tax Authority, and district courts all played a role in regulating Irish gambling which heavily convoluted the regulatory process. The introduction of an independent regulator will streamline this process leading to a more efficient process of regulation in the Irish gambling market.
The new independent regulator will have a variety of powers that will impact both in-person and online casinos across Ireland. Most importantly, the advertisement of casinos and betting sites will be completely banned on social media. This ban hopes to help curb the huge uptake in online gambling within Ireland over the past few years. Moreover, the advertisement of gambling sites on more traditional forms of media, such as TV and radio, will also be banned between the hours of 5:30 am and 9:00 pm. These changes will drastically limit the extent that casino websites can market their website in Ireland. The independent regulator will have the authority to recommend to the Irish government to ban sites that do not adhere to these rules. Punishments associated with breaking licensing rules will also become stricter, with a maximum possible fine of €20 million, a 10% stake in the company, or a sentence of 8 years in prison.
Overall, drastic change is coming to casinos and betting sites across Ireland in the near future. Licensing, advertisement, and promotions will drastically change making it more difficult for casinos to enter the Irish market and advertise their product.