Legislative framework of gambling regulation
◊ Status: Law stated as at 01-Dec-2016 | Jurisdiction: Ireland
◊ Department of Justice and Equality
◊ The Revenue Commissioners
◊ The Revenue Commissioners
◊ Department of Justice and Equality
Gambling in various forms has been regulated in Ireland for centuries. Historically, Ireland had a significant horseracing industry and there is a rich cultural history of associated on-course and off-course betting. Bookmakers, bookmakers’ premises and wagering have been regulated since the 18th century by various statutes and common law (where, prior to 2007, the courts determined as a matter of public policy, that wagering contracts were unenforceable).
Ireland has not traditionally had a casino industry, although, this changed to a certain degree in the early 2000’s, with the emergence of ”private members clubs” offering limited gaming facilities.
Ireland has had sweepstakes since the early part of the 20th century (notably the Irish Hospitals Sweepstake). There is also a state regulated prize bonds system and a state regulated national lottery, which was launched in 1987. A 20-year national lottery licence was awarded in 2014.
Gambling in Ireland is regulated by both:
- Legislation relating to betting.
- Legislation relating to gaming and lotteries.
Betting is governed primarily by the Betting Act 1931, as amended (1931 Act). The 1931 Act, which repealed the Betting Act 1926, was introduced to regulate the bookmaking industry and relax certain prohibitions on betting that were contained in the Betting Act 1853.
The most significant recent change to the 1931 Act came in the form of the Betting (Amendment) Act 2015, which regulated remote (that is, online) bookmakers and betting intermediaries for the first time. All online bookmakers or betting intermediaries who accept bets from customers based in Ireland are subject to the licensing regime under the Betting (Amendment) Act 2015.
The Tote (pari mutuel) is governed primarily by the Totalisator Act 1929 and the Irish Tote has been operated effectively as a state monopoly since then.
Gaming and lotteries
Gaming and lotteries (aside from the National Lottery) are governed primarily by the Gaming and Lotteries Acts 1956 to 2013 (1956 Act). Under the 1956 Act, gaming in general is prohibited, unless it falls under either of the following exemptions:
- Gaming taking place in circuses, travelling shows or carnivals (provided that certain conditions are complied with).
- Gaming that is operated in such a way as to fall outside the definition of unlawful gaming under the 1956 Act (for example where the chances of all players including the banker are equal and no stakes are retained by the banker).
The 1956 Act was introduced to repeal and replace a series of individual 19th century gaming and lotteries acts and repealed older legislation, including the Act for Suppressing of Lotteries (1698) (10. Will. III, c.23). Although it was innovative in so far as it regulated both areas in a short, single piece of legislation, it is now generally considered as archaic and unhelpful.
The 1956 Act is technically (and in some respects practically) applicable to online gaming, but it was obviously not drafted with online gaming in mind. Legislative changes are expected to fully regulate and tax online gambling in all forms (see Question 17).
Lotteries (aside from the National Lottery) are permitted to a narrow extent under the 1956 Act. For example, lotteries must have small prize limits, be subject to the acquisition of a lottery licence and be carried out with the predominant aim of raising money for good causes. There is also a private lotteries exemption, which applies in very limited circumstances (such as where the sale of lottery tickets is confined to people who work or reside in the same premises).
The largest and most lucrative lottery is the Irish National Lottery, which has been historically operated by a subsidiary of the Irish Post Office (An Post). In 2013, the Irish Government held a competitive tender process to award a new 20-year licence to operate the National Lottery. The winner of this process, Premier Lotteries Limited, was a consortium involving An Post and led by the UK national lottery operator, Camelot. The licence was agreed and signed in February 2014. Subsequently, the Government enacted the National Lottery Act 2013 (2013 Act), which repealed and replaced the terms of the National Lottery Act 1986. The most notable feature of the 2013 Act is the establishment of a new office, the Regulator of the National Lottery, to ensure that the National Lottery is run with all due propriety so that participants’ interests are protected and the long-term sustainability of the National Lottery is safeguarded.
Definitions of gambling
Irish law distinguishes between betting and gaming and lotteries.
Section 1 of the Betting Act 1931, as amended (1931 Act) simply provides that the word ”bet” includes wager, and that cognate words must be construed accordingly. The scope of this definition has been determined at common law by the courts, although case law is relatively rare.
A more relevant definition is that of a ”bookmaker”, which is defined as a person who, in the course of business, takes bets, sets odds and undertakes to pay out on winning bets (section 1, 1931 Act).
”Gaming” is defined as playing a game (whether of skill, chance or partly of skill and partly of chance) for stakes hazarded by the players (section 2, Gaming and Lotteries Acts 1956 to 2013 (1956 Act))
In addition, a ”stake” is defined as any payment for the right to take part in a game or any other form of payment required to be made as a condition of taking part in the game, but does not include payment made solely for facilities provided for the playing of the game (section 2, 1956 Act).
The 1956 Act defines ”lottery” as including all competitions for money or money’s worth, involving guesses or estimates of future events or of past events, the results of which are not yet ascertained or not yet generally known.
A more detailed statutory definition of a lottery does not exist, but it has been accepted by the Irish Supreme Court (Flynn v Denieffe  2 IR) that a lottery consists of an arrangement for the distribution of prizes by chance where there is no element of skill on the part of the person participating and where there is some payment or consideration by or on behalf of the participant.
Irish gaming law does not currently address online gaming directly (see Question 17).
The 1931 Act was recently amended to address online betting and the provision of online betting intermediary services. The definition in the statute focuses on the provision of betting/intermediary services by “remote” means, which is defined as any electronic means, including the internet, telephone and telegraph (whether wireless or not).
See Question 7, for information on who constitutes a remote bookmaker or a remote betting intermediary and the licence application process.
Irish gaming law does not currently address land-based gambling.
The following regulatory or governmental bodies are responsible for supervising gambling in Ireland:
- The Office of the Regulator of the National Lottery (ORNL), which was established by the National Lottery Act 2013 on 14 May 2013. The ORNL’s role is to regulate and monitor the operation of the National Lottery, approve new National Lottery games and manage and control the National Lottery Fund.
- The Department of Justice and Equality, which is responsible for issuing certificates of personal fitness (required for applications for betting, remote betting and remote betting intermediary licences).
- The Irish tax authority, the Revenue Commissioners, which is responsible for the awarding of betting and remote betting licences. It also polices remote betting operators to ensure that they are licensed and pay the appropriate level of duty.
- The industry body, the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland, which publishes and monitors compliance with advertising standards. The latest version of their Code of Standards for Advertising and Marketing Communications in Ireland (which came into effect on 1 March 2016) includes a chapter on guidelines for advertising in the gambling industry.
- The Irish police force (An Garda Síochána) and the District Courts, which can also award licences for small and charitable lotteries.
Poker is not governed by any specific piece of law, but rather falls under the remit of the Gaming and Lotteries Acts 1956 to 2013 (1956 Act), as a game (partly of skill and partly of chance), which is played for stakes hazarded by players.
Unlike in other common law jurisdictions, where there has been some debate as to whether poker is a game of skill or chance and therefore whether it could fall outside of legislation regulating games of chance, the law in Ireland makes no distinction between games of skill and chance or a combination of both. Therefore, it is not treated any differently from other types of gaming.
It is possible to operate poker games as ”lawful gaming” under the 1956 Act in certain circumstances, for example, if the games are carefully structured to comply with the provisions of the 1956 Act (normally, these are promotional tournaments that are not designed to make a profit for the organiser).
The terms of the Betting Act 1931, as amended (1931 Act) apply to betting that takes place in relation to any event of uncertain outcome. The 1931 Act does not define the act of ”betting”, except to say that it includes activities such as wagering.
A fundamental element of bookmaking involves the assumption of some level of risk by the bookmaker in relation to the outcome of an event (whether or not the bookmaker can manage his/her exposure to risk through laying some or all of the stakes received).
Following the decision in the High Court case of Mulvaney & Ors v The Sporting Exchange Ltd trading as Betfair  IEHC 133 on 18 March 2009, section 1 of the 1931 Act was amended to define a bookmaker as a person who, in the course of business, takes bets, sets odds and undertakes to pay out on winning bets.
All of the above elements must be met for a person to be considered to be acting as a bookmaker.
The concept of a ”remote betting intermediary” was introduced by section 49 of the Finance Act 2011 to capture betting exchanges for tax purposes for the first time. A remote betting intermediary was defined when the 1931 Act was amended in 2015 as a person who, in the course of business, provides facilities that enable persons to make bets with other persons (other than the first-mentioned person) by remote means.
Although the tax treatment of remote betting intermediaries suggests that the definition is primarily aimed at betting exchanges, the definition is somewhat broad and could potentially apply to a wide variety of operators within the Irish licensing regime.
Sports betting is treated in the same way as non-sports betting (see above, Betting).
Casino style games (such as blackjack or roulette) are not specifically identified by legislation but fall under the broad definition of gaming under the 1956 Act and are therefore generally prohibited.
Anti-money laundering procedures in Ireland are governed by the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010 (as amended) (Criminal Justice Act). Section 25(1) of the Criminal Justice Act, classifies, among others, the following categories of persons acting in the state as ”designated persons”:
- A person who effectively directs a private members’ club at which gambling activities are carried on, but only in respect of those gambling activities.
This reflects the somewhat unusual position in Irish law whereby casinos (which are not technically permitted by the terms of the 1956 Act) are regulated for anti-money laundering purposes.
At the time of writing, Ireland has yet to transpose the Fourth Anti Money Laundering Directive. It is likely that when this is transposed, it will impact on some forms of gambling in Ireland.
Slot and other machine gaming
The prohibition on slot machines originally contained under section 10 of the 1956 Act was repealed in 1970. Section 43 of the Finance Act 1975 (as amended) provides that a person who makes a gaming machine available for play must have a gaming machine licence for each machine.
Terminal-based gaming (such as FOBTs) is not common in Ireland (at least among the mainstream operators) and is likely to be illegal under the terms of the 1956 Act, but this position has not been tested. On the rare occasions when they are discussed in parliamentary debates, there has been a general reluctance to legalise FOBTs.
Bingo is generally considered to be a lottery under Irish law (Barrett v Flynn  2 I.R. 1) (see Question 1, Gaming and lotteries).
Lotteries (aside from the National Lottery) are addressed directly by the 1956 Act. The National Lottery is governed by the terms of the National Lottery Act 2013 (see Question 1, Gaming and lotteries).
Pari mutuel betting is governed by the Totalisator Act 1929 (as amended). Under that law, a totalisator is defined as an apparatus or organisation by means of which an unlimited number of persons can each stake money, in respect of a future event, on the terms that the amount to be won by those who are successful is dependent on or is to be calculated with reference to the total amount staked, by means of the apparatus or organisation in relation to that event (but not necessarily on the same contingency). It is prohibited to operate a totalisator without a licence.
Ireland has historically issued only two totalisator licences, one to Horse Racing Ireland and one to Bord na gCon (the Irish Greyhound Board).
The government-backed prize bond scheme was established by the Finance (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1956 and operates outside the scope of the 1956 Act.
Spread betting on financial instruments is governed by Directive 2004/39/EC on markets in financial instruments and regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.
The regulatory and tax treatment of spread betting on sports or other events is less clear pending the reform of the gambling laws.
Casinos. Ireland currently has no law specifically governing casinos. Mainstream commercial casino games generally constitute unlawful gaming and are generally prohibited if they promote or provide facilities for any kind of gaming that is deemed ”unlawful gaming”, such as either (section 4(1), Gaming and Lotteries Acts 1956 to 2013 (1956 Act)):
- Gaming in which by reason of the nature of the game, the chances of all the players, including the banker, are not equal.
- Gaming in which any portion of the stakes is retained by the promoter or is retained by the banker otherwise than as winnings on the result of the play.
Although it is not possible to obtain a gaming licence for casino activity in Ireland, casinos do operate in Ireland under the auspices of ”private members” clubs. The legal status of these operations is not entirely clear as the private members clubs exemption only applies to private lotteries and there is no ”private gaming exemption” under the 1956 Act.
The Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010 (as amended) classifies casinos and private members clubs as ”designated persons” for anti-money laundering purposes.
Bookmakers. Persons wishing to operate a bookmaking business (that is, a retail shop) must (Betting Act 1931, as amended (1931 Act)):
- Obtain a bookmaker’s licence by first applying for a certificate of personal fitness from a member of the Irish Police (An Garda Síochána) not below the rank of Superintendent. In the case of a corporate applicant, at least two relevant officers of the company must hold certificates of personal fitness. The term ”relevant officers” is defined in statute and includes the directors of an applicant company.
- Obtain a certificate of suitability of premises in relation to the building from which the bookmaker will trade. This requirement does not apply to those obtaining an ”on-course” only licence (that is, an licence to operate on racecourse).
A certificate of personal fitness may be refused if a superintendent of An Garda Síochána considers that the applicant is unfit due to either:
- His/her financial circumstances.
- The applicant satisfying one of the following considerations (section 6, 1931 Act):
- prior offences relating to betting, gaming, tax or money laundering;
- the prior holding of a betting licence, which was revoked; or
- situations where the prior holder of a betting licence unreasonably refused to pay out on valid bets.
The applicant must also be registered for betting duty.
An applicant must make an initial application for a certificate of personal fitness to the superintendent of An Garda Síochána (provided that the applicant is based in Ireland). This also involves placing adverts in national newspapers, which serve to notify the general public of an applicant’s intention to apply for a certificate of personal fitness.
On receipt of the certificate, the applicant must make an application (with a tax clearance certificate and licence fee) for a bookmaker’s licence to the Irish tax authority, the Revenue Commissioners.
An individual who is not resident in Ireland can apply for a certificate of personal fitness directly to the Department of Justice and Equality.
If the process goes smoothly, it should take no more than a number of weeks.
Duration of licence and cost
A standard bookmaker’s licence lasts for two years. The licence fee is EUR500 for a bookmaker’s licence and EUR760 for a certificate of registration of premises.
See Question 1, Gaming and lotteries.
Mainstream commercial casino games will normally constitute unlawful gaming and are generally prohibited under the Gaming and Lotteries Acts 1956 to 2013 (1956 Act). Certain ”private members clubs” do offer gambling products (see Question 5, Available licences).
Anti-money laundering legislation
Although casinos are generally prohibited, there are a small number of ”private members clubs”, which do offer gambling products and are subject to anti-money laundering legislation (see Question 4, Casino games).
There is currently no licensing regime for online gaming. The offering of gaming products online (and the promotion of these products) is generally prohibited under Irish law.
Currently, it is very common for operators that are licensed overseas (for example, in the Isle of Man, Alderney, Malta or Gibraltar) to provide gaming services to Irish consumers. The purpose of locating offshore is usually to ensure that the service is operated in a jurisdiction where it is licensed under a modern regulatory framework. Politically, the Irish Government has indicated that it is keen to establish a modern licensing regime to encourage reputable online operators to establish or to relocate in Ireland. These companies could then take advantage of Ireland’s attractive tax rates and various other benefits that arise in an English speaking EU member state. While some online gaming operators have done so, the absence of a modern legislative regime has hindered development.
Gaming operators who are licensed overseas but accept Irish customers should also be aware that their Irish revenues may be subject to value added tax (VAT) under Directive 2006/112/EC on the common system of value added tax and its implementing regulations (282/2011/EU). eGaming services are taxable in Ireland at a rate of 23% on a point of consumption basis. VAT payments can be made centrally via the mini one stop shop arrangement. The mini one stop shop arrangement allows companies to account for VAT locally and have that VAT remitted to the country where the relevant supply took place.
There are two categories of online betting licences that can be obtained to provide betting services to customers based in Ireland (see below, Available licences).
Any operator (based anywhere in the world) who is acting as a remote bookmaker or a remote betting intermediary in respect of customers based in Ireland must obtain one (or both) of the following:
A remote bookmaker’s licence, which will cover the provision of betting services online.A remote betting intermediary licence, which will permit an operator to provide facilities that enable persons to make bets with other persons (other than the operator) by remote means.
Remote bookmaker’s and remote betting intermediary licences are not limited in number though their award is at the discretion of the Revenue Commissioners who could (theoretically) place a cap on the number awarded.
Eligibility for both licences is largely the same as for a land-based betting licence (see Question 5, Eligibility).
The process for both licences is largely the same as for a land-based betting licence, except that there is no need to obtain a certificate of suitability of premises (see Question 5, Application procedure). For applicants who are not based in Ireland, applications for certificates of personal fitness must be sent to the Department of Justice and Equality.
Remote betting and remote betting intermediary licences can normally be obtained in between six and ten weeks, assuming that there are no complications.
Duration of licence and cost
The initial licence fee for remote bookmakers and remote betting intermediaries is EUR10,000. The cost of renewing a remote licence is based on turnover and ranges from EUR10,000 up to a maximum of EUR500,000 (for bookmakers with an annual turnover of over EUR500 million) or EUR200,000 for remote betting intermediaries with an annual turnover of EUR500 million or more.
As well as licence fees, remote bookmakers must also pay a betting duty of 1%.
Remote betting intermediaries must pay a betting intermediary duty, which is currently 15% of commission charges (that is, the amount that parties in the make using the facilities of a remote betting intermediary are charged, whether by deduction from winnings or otherwise, for using those facilities) (Finance Act 2002 (as amended)).
Gaming. See Question 1, Gaming and lotteries.
Betting. The Irish online betting regime was introduced to tax operators who are targeting Irish customers. The focus of the laws and regulations in this area is therefore on the taxation of these entities rather than a detailed treatment of what they can and cannot do.
See above, Prohibitions.
Anti-money laundering legislation
All operators in the Irish market must comply with the obligations of the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010 (as amended).
B2B and B2C
Irish law does not recognise a distinction between the law applicable to B2B operations and B2C operations. In practical terms, white-labelling and other devices are used to ensure that online gambling activities are located and structured in a manner that does not breach Irish law. Specialist local legal and tax advice is required.
The current wording of the General Scheme of the Gambling Control Bill 2013 proposes that entities supplying certain equipment or services to the providers of licensed gambling services in Ireland must in the future register with the Office for Gambling Control, Ireland. However, this legislation has not yet been passed so its terms are not yet binding (see Question 17).
A party (including, for example an ISP) is prohibited from enabling unlicensed remote bookmakers or betting intermediaries from accessing or using a particular internet address or domain (section 32A, Betting Act 1931, as amended). The provision of services or facilities that would enable persons in Ireland to access unlicensed remote bookmakers or remote betting intermediaries is also prohibited.
There is also a general prohibition on the advertising of these unlicensed services.
The Revenue Commissioners can seek enforcement of the above rules in the district courts.
Financial transaction and ISP blocking are also provided for in the General Scheme of the Gambling Control Bill 2013 (see Question 17), however the scope and precise detail of the measures are yet to be finalised.
Mobile gambling and interactive gambling
Social gaming is not specifically regulated in Irish legislation. Therefore, social gaming must be analysed with regards to the provisions of the Gaming and Lotteries Acts 1956 to 2013 (1956 Act), which regulate gaming generally.
See Question 2, General definition for a definition of gaming under the 1956 Act. If social games are free to enter, they will not require a stake (that is, any payment for the right to take part in a game, but not including a payment made solely for facilities provided for the playing of the game). Therefore, they would not be prohibited under Irish law.
If a social gaming promoter offers a game that requires an entry fee rather than a stake, this would be permissible, but only if all of the following are satisfied:
- Only one charge is made per day.
- The charge is of the same amount for all players.
- The promoter derives no personal profit from the promotion of the game.
The provision of prizes has no bearing on a game’s legality.
There are no current plans to address social gaming specifically in the heads of the Gambling Control Bill (see Question 17). However, as the Bill is at a very early stage, amendments to regulate social gaming may be introduced.
Gambling debts are unenforceable in Ireland. This position was recently reinforced in the reported High Court case, Sporting Index Limited v John O’Shea  IEHC 407. This case reiterated the position under the Gaming and Lotteries Acts 1956 to 2013 (1956 Act), which states that every contract by way of gaming or wagering is void and therefore that there can be no action for recovery of any disputed sum (section 36(2), 1956 Act).
Therefore, an operator cannot take action to enforce a gambling bet and a punter cannot sue an operator who refuses to pay out on a debt. However, betting operators who refuse to pay out may have difficulty obtaining (or maintaining) their certificates of personal fitness. One of the criteria which is taken into account in the awarding (or renewal) of a certificate of personal fitness is the unreasonable refusal to pay out on otherwise valid bets.
Betting is taxed by way of an excise duty. Bets entered into by a bookmaker are currently taxed at 1%. On-course/tote bets are not taxed. Bookmakers must also be registered for betting tax before they begin to offer services to the public (see Question 5, Eligibility).
The holder of a remote bookmaker’s licence must pay a betting duty of 1% of the stake wagered.
Remote betting intermediaries must pay a betting intermediary duty of 15% on their commission charges.
The General Scheme of the Gaming Control Bill 2013 was silent on taxation and it is expected that considerable further debate on this issue will occur in the event that this Bill is progressed before the Irish Parliament (Oireachtas).
Betting. The Betting Act 1931, as amended places the following restrictions on a bookmaker’s ability to market to the public (in particular in relation to on-premises advertising):
- A bookmaker is prohibited from setting up or maintaining in or outside his/her shop any attraction (other than the mere carrying on of his/her business of bookmaking) that causes or encourages or is likely to cause or encourage persons to congregate in or outside such premises (section 20(1)).
- A bookmaker is prohibited from proclaiming, announcing or permitting any other person to proclaim or announce in his/her premises to the persons there present, the terms or odds on or at which he/she is willing to take bets in relation to any particular race, match, or other contest, or in respect of any competitor in a contest (section 20(3)).
- A bookmaker is prohibited from exhibiting (or permitting to be exhibited) in or outside his/her shop (or which is visible from the street) any lists or statements of either (section 20(4)):
- the terms or odds on or at which he/she is willing to take bets in relation to any particular race, match, or other contest, or in respect of any competitor in any a contest; or
- the competitors entered for, withdrawn from or taking or likely to take part in any a contest, or statements of facts, news, or forecasts in respect of any contest, or any other incitement or inducement to bet.
The level of compliance with these provisions is relatively low.
The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) is an independent statutory organisation responsible for a number of key areas of activity relating to television and radio services in Ireland. The BCI’s General Commercial Communications Code (Code) addresses standards with regard to all forms of commercial communications, advertising, sponsorship and teleshopping, some of which are relevant to the betting industry.
Section 8.8 of the Code provides that:
- Commercial communications that seek to promote services to those who want to bet are acceptable.
- These commercial communications can contain the address of the service provider and factual descriptions of the services available but must not contain anything that could be deemed to be an encouragement to bet.
- Information detailing special offers, discounts, inducements to visit any betting establishment (including online), references to betting odds available or any promotional offer intended to encourage the use of services of this nature are not permitted.
The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) is an industry body that publishes and monitors compliance with advertising standards. In the latest version of their Code of Standards for Advertising and Marketing Communications in Ireland (which came into effect on 1 March 2016) they have (for the first time) included a chapter on guidelines for advertising in the gambling industry.
Lotteries. The Gaming and Lotteries Acts 1956 to 2013 (1956 Act) prohibits the promotion of unlicensed lotteries.
Gaming. Section 4(1) of the 1956 Act prohibits the promotion (or assistance in promotion) of any kind of gaming in which either:
- The chances of all players (including the banker) are not equal.
- Any portion of the stake is retained by the promoter or by the banker (other than as winnings) or by means of any slot machine.
As an EU member state, Ireland is also subject to the evolving case law emanating from the Court of Justice of the European Union in respect of the free movement of services, freedom of establishment and so on. While gambling services are generally exempted from normal free movement provisions in the Treaty on the European Union , the case law in this area continues to evolve.
There is no distinction made between sponsorship and affiliate marketing for the purpose of advertising regulations in Ireland and the principles above also apply to sponsorship arrangements.
Future reform. Under the General Scheme of the Gaming Control Bill 2013, only licensed operators would be permitted to advertise gambling services available to Irish players and various restrictions would apply to how advertising, promotion or sponsorship could take place (with further rules to be issued by the Office of Gambling Control, Ireland in the future, if and when that office is established).
Advertising of online gambling is regulated in the same manner as advertising of land-based gambling (see above, Land-based gambling).
Developments and reform
The legal status of land-based gambling has not changed significantly in recent years.
A licence regime for internet bookmakers and remote betting intermediaries has been introduced (see Question 7).
In September 2011, the Minister for Justice announced plans for a new gambling bill to generally modernise Irish law in this area.
On 15 July 2013, the government finally published the General Scheme for a Gambling Control Bill 2013 (Heads), which brings together almost all forms of betting, gaming and lotteries legislation under one new legislative roof and creates a granular licensing regime to cover all main forms of gambling The Heads were intended to be the first step towards a bill which, if enacted, would modernise Ireland’s legislative framework for all types of online and land-based gambling.
Unfortunately, the Heads have not progressed since they were first published so are very much still in draft form.
The changes proposed by the Heads are as follows:
- Creation of a new gambling regulator, the Office of Gambling Control, Ireland ( OGCI). This would be funded from licensing fees (the level of which would be determined by the OGCI) and the introduction of, for the first time, extensive player protection measures (see below for more information on the OGCI).
- Licences to operate casinos (including remote or online casinos). This new licensing regime would apply to all online betting and gaming operators who do business with Irish customers and an updated regime would be introduced to govern charitable lotteries, bingo, prize competitions and gaming in retail and amusement locations.
- Bookmakers. Bookmakers will be permitted to have gaming in their shops, although the provisions governing this are not clear at this point. Credit facilities for players are prohibited and the concept of ”player cards” (both physical and virtual) is included in the Heads, but the practicalities of how they will work is unclear.
- Lottery licences. The introduction of several new categories of lottery licences for lotteries that apply at least 25% of the proceeds of sales in aid of a charitable or philanthropic cause. Certain smaller lotteries would be exempt. However, at the higher end, annual licences could be obtained for lotteries having a prize fund in excess of EUR50,000 per week or EUR250,000 per month (with a maximum prize fund limit of EUR400,000 per month). Scratch cards would be subject to a separate annual licence requirement, subject to the maximum prize not exceeding EUR1,750. The Heads proposed to allow the Minister for Justice and Equality to alter the maximum amounts every three or four years.
- Online operators. In contrast with some EU member states, there is no appetite in Ireland to restrict reputable online operators from being licensed in Ireland. Therefore, there is no limit on the number of online casinos, bookmakers and betting exchanges that can be licensed in the Heads. The Heads also anticipated potential mutual recognition of licences held in other countries. However, assessments of applications would include criteria based on views submitted by An Garda Síochána, planning authorities, third parties who respond to the advertisement of a licence and competition law.
- Fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs). FOBTs remain prohibited under the Heads and the Minister for Justice and Equality can exclude other classes of games or machines on public policy grounds. However, some (currently) unspecified gaming machines would be permitted at retail outlets, such as catering outlets, bars, shopping centres and airports.
Under the Heads, the OGCI would be the licensing body for the 43 new categories of gambling licences and two categories of ‘registrations. Gambling operators who offer any form of gambling by any means to persons in Ireland will require a licence from the OGCI. Those who locate equipment in Ireland may also be covered by the registration system, even if they exclude Irish players from their services.The OGCI would have the power to direct the taking of ISP blocking measures to prevent, disrupt or obstruct access to unlicensed remote services. A district court procedure would be available to enforce internet blocking and court orders may also include restrictions on advertising, payments services and the freezing of bank accounts.The Heads would also allow OGCI to introduce various player protection measures relating to combatting problem gambling (including a self-exclusion register), under-age gambling, match fixing and cheating, as well as customer complaints processes and compensation procedures. The OGCI will be assisted by an advisory committee on responsible gaming.
The regulatory authorities
Office of the Regulator of the National Lottery
Description. The Office of the Regulator of the National Lottery regulates the operation of the National Lottery.
Department of Justice and Equality
Description. The Department of Justice and Equality awards certificates of personal fitness, which are required by applicants for bookmakers or betting intermediary licences.
The Revenue Commissioners
Description. The Revenue Commissioners are responsible for the awarding of bookmakers and betting intermediary licences and for policing them from a tax perspective.
Description. All Irish gambling legislation can be found on this website. However it is not in consolidated form so the legislation must be carefully checked for subsequent amendments.
The Revenue Commissioners
Description. This website contains information on the betting duty and the application process for obtaining a bookmaker’s licence, remote bookmaker’s licence and a remote betting intermediary licence.
Department of Justice and Equality
Description. The website provides information about applying for certificates of personal fitness.
Source: Practical Law