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Introduction of gambling regulator is delayed again

Justice Minister hopes to bring forward legislation next year

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The creation of a regulatory body for Ireland's €8bn-plus gambling sector won't happen until at least next year, according to Justice Minister Helen McEntee.

Early last year, the Cabinet approved a plan to establish a regulator for the industry, while also publishing the Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill that provided for long-awaited modernisation of existing legislation for the sector that dates back to 1931 and 1956.

At the time the Cabinet approved the creation of the independent regulatory body - which has been broadly welcomed by the industry - then-Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it could be 18 months before the watchdog was actually established.

The long delay in establishing a much-needed regulator is despite consistent calls by the industry for a watchdog.

Asked last week in the Dáil by Fianna Fáil TD Padraig O'Sullivan about the status of the work being done to create the regulator's office, Ms McEntee confirmed that there will be a further delay.

She said the Programme for Government gives a "clear commitment" to establishing a gambling regulator focused on public safety and well-being, "covering gambling online and in person, and the powers to regulate advertising, gambling websites and apps".

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Justice Minister Helen McEntee. Photo: Julien Behal

Justice Minister Helen McEntee. Photo: Julien Behal

Justice Minister Helen McEntee. Photo: Julien Behal

"Work is currently under way in my department on the development of the legislation to provide the necessary modern licensing and regulatory provisions for the Irish gambling industry," she said. "I hope to bring proposals in that regard to Government next year.

"Given the size, complexity and technological development of the modern gambling industry and having regard to the outdated and complex arrangements, it will be important that the regulator will be established on a strong footing and adequately resourced to carry out this important task."

A commencement order that will bring the Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Act into force has already been signed and the legislation will come into effect on December 1.

But it appears the industry and consumers will have to wait some time for a regulatory office - which it is intended will be funded via levies on the gambling sector - to be set up.

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Ireland is now home to one of the world's biggest gambling groups, Flutter Entertainment, which owns brands including Paddy Power and Betfair. It also has a significant presence in Australia and the United States.

Earlier this year, Flutter merged with The Stars Group, creating the world's largest online gambling group which now has a market capitalisation of more than £18bn (€19.5bn).

In the UK, the independent Gambling Commission has regulated the sector since 2007.

"Responsible gambling is a critical component of our strategy," said Flutter chief executive Peter Jackson earlier this year as the company released full-year results.

"This is why we continue to raise our standards as a socially progressive operator and to help to lead the industry in a race to the top when it comes to responsible gambling practices," he said.


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