Ireland begins overhaul of gambling laws

Out-Law News | 12 Jan 2021 | 1:35 pm | 2 min. read

The Irish government has passed amendments to its Gaming and Lotteries Act in an interim measure ahead of a more significant overhaul of gambling legislation expected later this year.

The Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Act 2019 came into effect on 1 December 2020.

The legislation introduces a more coherent permit and licensing application process and formalises the minimum age of 18 for all forms of betting, among other measures.

Gaming law expert Dermot McGirr of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: “While this legislation is welcome as it brings a certain degree of clarity to Irish operators, it should very much be viewed as another step on the long road to fundamental reform of the gambling and gaming regulatory landscape in Ireland.

“This reform is expected to modernise and consolidate Irish gambling and gaming law, give certainty to online operators selling their services into Ireland and to establish an independent regulator modelled on the UK Gambling Commission,” McGirr said.

The amendments establish the conditions required for promoters of lottery and gaming activities. Operators can apply to An Garda Síochána (the Irish police) for permits for on-premises gaming where the maximum stake is €10 and a player cannot win more than €3,000 in a game, as well as for lotteries with a total prize value of less than €5,000.

Applications can be made to the District Court for licences for lotteries with a total prize value of up to €30,000 per week, and 25% of proceeds must be allocated to charitable or philanthropic purposes.

A gaming licence is required from the Revenue for gaming machines, and the Revenue is now required to create and maintain a register of gaming licences.

Prize draws which operate for marketing purposes do not need a licence or permit under the act, provided that the total value of the prizes do not exceed €2,500 and that those taking part are not charged for entry or redeeming the prize. Lotteries that are held for charitable or philanthropic purposes do not require a permit or a licence, provided certain conditions are met.

The act updates the stakes and prize limits for gaming machines, so that the maximum stake is now €5 and a player cannot win more than €500.

The act increases the severity of penalties for offences. A summary conviction will result in a fine of up to €5,000, in addition to or instead of imprisonment for up to six months, while a conviction on indictment will result in a fine of up to €50,000 as well as or instead of imprisonment for up to two years.

Announcing that the legislation was in force, the Irish minister with responsibility for gambling regulation, James Browne, said: “Gambling is a large and evolving industry. It must be the subject of a modern, sensible and effective licensing and regulatory approach. My department is now engaged in the drafting of a General Scheme of a new Bill to provide for that comprehensive reform.”

Reforms to Ireland’s gambling laws were proposed in 2019 after a working group set up to examine previous legislation recommended changes. However the topic has been on the agenda for some time with reforms also proposed three years ago.