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Irish Gambling Legislation

By James Langley on

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TopRatedCasinos.ie is dedicated to helping customers find the best place to play online. Your safety and well-being is a priority, which is why all of our expert casino reviews are 100% honest and unbiased, and we highlight the key terms and conditions of every casino bonus we advertise. Whilst we accept commission from the casinos on our list of recommendations, and this may affect where they’re positioned on our lists, we only recommend casinos that we truly believe are safe and fair. Of course, we can’t rate and review every casino site, but we do make sure that only the best Irish-licensed casinos make it onto our lists.

Gambling legislation is the legal basis upon which gambling is controlled within a given jurisdiction. Some of the impacts are obvious — like the minimum age of players — while others are harder to see, such as regulation of advertising or bonus terms and conditions. 

This legislation is incredibly important, as one of its main roles is to protect players. As gambling can cause serious harm through addiction and financial loss, it’s essential for lawmakers to foster an environment where responsible gambling is the norm.

Ireland’s gambling legislation can be a little hard to navigate, with a proper regulatory framework for online casinos currently lacking. However, change is in the pipeline — there’s ongoing work by the Department of Justice to draft a new Gambling Bill which will see an overhaul of the current rules and an independent regulatory body established. 

History of Gambling Legislation in Ireland

To get the full picture of Ireland’s gambling legislation, it’s time for a quick history lesson. Gambling itself has been regulated in Ireland since the middle of the 19th century; since then, a number of separate laws have been introduced. Below, we’ll dive into the most important ones and assess their impact. 

A quick note beforehand — current Irish law separates gambling into three distinct categories: betting, gaming, and lotteries. 

  • Betting refers to bookmakers setting odds against a future event.
  • Gaming covers playing a game of skill, chance, or a mixture of both, for stakes risked by the player.
  • Lotteries are competitions for money involving guessing the outcome of a future event.

Betting Act 1931

Repealing the slightly earlier Betting Act 1926, the Betting Act 1931 was introduced to regulate the bookmaking industry and relax certain rules around betting that were part of the Betting Act 1853. 

2015 saw an amendment to the Betting Act, a reflection of the increasing popularity of online sports betting and casinos.

Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956

Introduced in 1956, the Gaming and Lotteries Act addressed both casino gambling and lotteries. Essentially, physical casinos were prohibited by the act, but some canny business owners were able to use certain legal loopholes to start gambling ‘clubs’. 

There are only a handful of these businesses in Ireland today and all require membership, but they offer a range of casino games like slots, video poker, and blackjack. Gaming at these clubs for real money doesn’t violate the Gaming and Lotteries Act.

The 1956 Act was recently amended by the 2019 Act, the purpose of which was to standardise and modernise various aspects of gaming legislation.

Gambling Control Bill 2013

The Gambling Control Bill is a proposed framework to legalise casino gambling in Ireland on a larger scale. If passed, up to 40 legal land-based casinos will be able to operate in Ireland, but it’s now unlikely the Bill will pass — it’s been largely superseded by the newer upcoming Gambling Bill, which addresses areas the Gambling Control Bill did not.

Specific Legislation

Online gambling, both on and offshore, was legalised as part of the 2015 amendments to the Betting Act. The revisions stipulate that all online bookmakers and betting intermediaries must be licensed by the Revenue Commissioners. Once licensed, operators are beholden to standards set out by Irish gambling legislation. 

As well as allowing the Irish government to collect tax revenues, the 2015 reforms added more protection for players. Onshore casinos are regularly audited to ensure they meet all licensing requirements — their servers must be hosted in Ireland, and all software logs must be available to ensure the site’s games are operated fairly. 

Online casino gaming itself is still lacking a proper regulatory framework in Ireland. Many offshore casinos offer their services to Irish players, but these must be licensed in their local jurisdiction by the relevant body, for example the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) or Malta Gaming Authority. This is essential for an online casino to be licensed to serve players within Ireland. 

The Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Act 2019 sought to address some of the gaps in existing gambling legislation. Purposes of the amendment included:

  • Standardisation of the minimum age for all forms of gambling to 18.
  • Modernisation of the application process for gaming permits.
  • Updated stake and prize limits for gaming machines.
  • Enhanced consumer protection.

Despite these recent changes in Irish gambling law, many view the 2019 Act as a stopgap until more comprehensive legislation is put in place. Along with reforms to Irish gambling regulation, the Department of Justice has committed to establishing an independent Gambling Regulator as part of its Statement of Strategy 2021-2023.

Developments from Gambling Review

At 224 pages long, the upcoming Gambling Regulation Bill will bring about some big changes in Irish gambling legislation. The primary purpose of the Bill is to create one authoritative framework under which all forms of in-person and online gambling in Ireland — including betting, gaming, and lotteries — will be regulated. 

Another pillar of the scheme is the establishment of a new independent body, the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland, to oversee all local licensing and regulation of the industry. Much of the Bill is designed to bolster consumer protection with measures such as:

  • Banning the extension of loans or credit to players.
  • Requirements to clearly display the risks of gambling.
  • Rules on how and when gambling may be advertised.
  • Prohibition of inducements such as free bets or preferential treatment.
  • Establishing an exclusionary register so players may request to be excluded from entering premises or accessing licensed games.

The scheme also includes provision of a Social Impact Fund, where operators will contribute funding towards the treatment of problem gambling, public education and awareness, and research.

When Will the Bill Pass?

The Department of Justice aimed to publish the General Scheme of the Gambling Regulation Bill in Q3 2021, and its unveiling in October 2021 leads us to believe things are mostly on track. 

The Department is hoping to enact the new legislation in early 2023, as current betting licences issued under the Betting (Amendment) Act 2015 are set to expire at the end of June that year. If the Gambling Regulatory Authority is running by the time the Act commences, all future licences will be issued under the new Gambling Regulation Bill.

Importance of Responsible Gambling

While gambling can be a thrilling hobby for many, it’s a potentially addictive activity. Since you’re risking real money when you gamble, responsible gambling habits are a must — we can’t stress that enough. Without them, it’s easy to end up on a path leading to mental, physical, and financial problems which affect you and those around you. 

Some warning signs of problem gambling include:

  • Spending more on gambling than you can afford to lose.
  • Viewing gambling as a source of income — casino games are designed with a house edge, meaning you’re highly unlikely to make any profit over the long term.
  • Spending more time on gambling at the expense of other interests.
  • Feeling guilty or anxious about gambling.
  • Neglecting work or family responsibilities in order to gamble.

The following section is a helpful list of things players can do to help them gamble responsibly and ensure the activity remains fun and enjoyable.

Always Play While Sober and Clear-headed

You should never gamble if you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs, as these can impair your judgement and make it harder to follow best practices while gambling. The same goes if you’re not feeling your best mentally — gambling while angry or upset could lead to irresponsible decisions.

Use Site Limits

All licensed casinos allow players to limit the amount of money or time spent on gambling, or exclude themselves from the site entirely. These tools are incredibly useful, especially if you have trouble knowing when to stop.

Never Chase Losses

You’re never guaranteed to win when gambling. Even if you run into a long string of losses, you’re never ‘due’ a win, and chasing these losses in an attempt to recoup your money can quickly spiral into a much worse situation.

Recognise the Warning Signs

If you find yourself noticing potentially problematic gambling behaviour, either in yourself or someone you know, it’s important to seek help immediately. Awareness of problem gambling is one of the best ways you can arm yourself against it. 

Responsible Gambling Charities 

If you need help with gambling addiction, there are a number of charities and organisations out there to help. Here are a few of them.

Problem Gambling Ireland

Problem Gambling Ireland is a not-for-profit organisation that provides counselling and support via phone and email to those who need it. The organisation also runs harm prevention workshops. 

Gamblers Anonymous Ireland

If you’d like to discuss gambling with fellow players in a confidential setting, Gamblers Anonymous Ireland organises support meetings around the country.

Gambling Awareness Trust

The Gambling Awareness Trust is an Irish charity which supports treatment programmes as well as funding research into problem gambling. Much of its work is based around raising awareness of the risks of gambing.

Gamcare

Gamcare is a UK-based charity that offers a self-assessment tool to help people understand how gambling could be impacting their life. If you think your gambling habits could be problematic, it’s a great way to get recommendations on the next steps. 

Dunlewey Addiction Services

Dunlewey Addiction Services is an organisation that supports those experiencing any issues with addiction, including problem gambling, with free and confidential counselling programmes.

Contributors

James is a writer at TopRatedCasinos.ie specialising in casino guides and reviews.

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