Ireland is to modernize its gambling laws, with changes designed to tackle the shortcomings of current legislation, which include the absence of a taxation regime for remote gambling.
The plans, announced Alan Shatter, Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, have been agreed by the government, but detailed arrangements for the implementation and operation of the new streamlined system are yet to be worked out. This will happen as the legislation is being drafted.
According to Shatter, Ireland’s present laws are not adequate to deal even with aspects of gambling which they were intended to cover, with the government clear that “it was long past time for a full and comprehensive revision of our gambling laws”. Crucially, it is felt by the government that the Exchequer is also being “short changed” because of the absence of a taxation regime for online and other forms of remote gambling.
The existing laws date from 1931 in the case of betting and 1956 for gaming. The new legislation will deal with online and other forms of remote betting and gaming, as well as addressing loopholes. It will also take account of the blurring of the lines between betting and gambling, especially in the online operations.
According to Shatter’s department, the new regime will therefore cover both betting and gaming, under the collective term ‘gambling’. In addition, a new unified enforcement structure will be established, with licensing and inspection duties to be brought together under the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence.
Among the key features of the new regime already agreed to within government are the following:
- The legislation will cover the following activities: betting, gaming, lotteries (other than the National Lottery). It will include ‘remote’ gambling, including online gaming, but will not include on-course betting, as this is already covered in current legislation.
- The new legislation will introduce a single updated and unified structure under the control of the Minister for Justice and Equality and cover ‘remote’ gambling, betting shops, gaming outlets, bingo venues and lotteries. The Minister will have full supervisory, inspection and enforcement powers, with assistance from the police as required. Currently, licensing and supervisory functions are split between the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Minister for Finance.
- The government will establish arrangements for the licensing of ‘remote’ operators, namely those who provide services online, via telephone or interactively. Once licensed, the remote operators can be brought within the taxation code as it applies to gambling. The taxation of gambling will remain the responsibility of the Minister for Finance and the Revenue Commissioners.
- The new regime will provide for the licensing and operation on a modest scale of casinos. The legislation will set down the maximum number to be permitted nationally, and the anomalies existing in the present law, enabling certain types of club to operate, will be removed.
- In future, a licence will be issued only where the applicant satisfies the Minister as to his personal suitability, financial resources, tax compliance, previous record as a licence holder (whether in Ireland or elsewhere), and criminal history (if any).
Shatter explained: “The series of decisions taken by the government will bring clarity and certainty. This will assist anyone planning to locate business here. They can be assured they will be operating within a comprehensive, modern regime.”
Shatter will present the government with a full draft of his proposed legislation in the spring of next year, for its approval.