Wednesday 7 December 2016

Unregulated trade not obliged to report suspicious gambling

Published 02/05/2016 | 02:30

Ireland has no gambling regulator and there are no guidelines governing how bookmakers report suspicious gambling activity here. (stock picture)
Ireland has no gambling regulator and there are no guidelines governing how bookmakers report suspicious gambling activity here. (stock picture)

Ireland has no gambling regulator and there are no guidelines governing how bookmakers report suspicious gambling activity here.

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Betting companies are required to obtain a licence that governs tax compliance, payment of duties and ensuring that the bookmaker is fit to hold a licence.

But no laws have been implemented requiring bookmakers to monitor for suspicious gambling activity, in contrast to industries such as banking and accountancy.

In 2013, proposals for the introduction of gambling regulations were drawn up and agreed on - but three years later the law is yet to be signed off.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has refused to comment on the glaring hole in regulation of the gambling industry, despite repeated requests.

Her department will ultimately be responsible for regulation, according to the Government.

A statement from the Revenue Commissioner said that it collects tax from licensed betting operators, but does not regulate their betting activities.

"Revenue has no role in the regulation of licensed betting operations, or in the investigation of suspicious betting activity," it said, adding that the Department of Justice was responsible for policy in the area.

A statement from the Department of Justice said that Revenue was responsible for issuing gambling licences.

It said that the Government had approved a bill on gambling regulation in July 2013 and that it would provide for a "unified regulatory structure governing all gambling activities," when implemented.

"Upon enactment of this legislation, the Minister for Justice, through an office to be located within this department, will assume regulatory responsibility for gambling," it said.

One of the biggest gambling companies in the country, Paddy Power Betfair, said any suspicious activity by its Irish customers is actually reported to authorities in the Isle of Man.

That's because, in the absence of regulation in Ireland, the company follows UK regulations that oblige it by law to monitor and report suspicious activity such as suspected money laundering.

The company's spokesman, Paddy Power, said that as the company was regulated in the Isle Of Man, part of its obligation was to report suspicious activity there, regardless of where it took place.

"So even if something suspicious happens in Ireland we'll raise a 'suspicious activity report' with the regulator in the Isle of Man and they have lines of communication with the relevant authorities in Ireland or elsewhere as the case may be," he said.

"In terms of responsibility, we are responsible for spotting and reporting suspicious activity and then acting on advice received by the regulator and relevant authorities" he added.

The Irish Independent attempted to obtain details of the number of suspicious activity reports for gambling held by the Isle of Man on Irish citizens, but authorities refused to release figures.

Steve Brennan, chief executive of the British island's Gambling Supervision Commission, said that it was currently helping international assessors to rate the compliance of the Isle of Man with international anti-­money laundering standards.

He said that any suspicious gambling activity reports were sent to the island's financial crime unit.

However, that unit refused to release figures regarding reports it has on Irish customers.

Gardaí here also refused to reveal how many cases have been passed on to them from the Isle of Man.

Irish Independent

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