Thursday 22 March 2018

Shatter's Gambling Control Bill set to proceed through Oireachtas at 'earliest opportunity'

Alan Shatter
Alan Shatter
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

The new Government intends to press ahead with Alan Shatter's Gambling Control Bill, first introduced in 2013.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said: "It is the intention to proceed with the Gambling Control Bill legislation at the earliest feasible opportunity - and, in that light, it is expected that this will be given renewed consideration in the preparation of the next legislation programme."

"At the same time, and pending the bringing forward of the main Bill, the Department are to examine whether there are any individual pressing areas of concern, intended to be dealt with in the Bill, which could be dealt with sooner by separate legislative measures," the spokesperson added.

The legislation would repeal and replace existing rules covering betting and gaming, seen by many as archaic.

As it stands, a new agency would be introduced that would act both as the licensing authority and regulator for the sector.

Controversial fixed-odds betting terminals - which allow people to bet on virtual events such as horse races and are recognised as being highly addictive - would be banned, and a new social gambling fund would be introduced to assist the treatment of gambling addicts. This would be financed by a levy paid by gambling licence holders.

The Bill is set to rule out the prospect of super- casinos being established, limiting the number of tables in casinos to a maximum of 15 and gaming machines to 25.

The news that the Bill is set to proceed was welcomed by Boylesports chief executive John Boyle, who said it replaces "a raft of dated and ineffective laws."

A spokeswoman for the Irish Bookmakers Association said the Bill would "provide a more level playing field across the entire gambling sector, and ensure all operators from the broad spectrum of gambling sectors have clear legislative guidelines within which to operate and invest in their business".

"The recognition of technological advancements and the effect that internet access has had on the land-based betting sector has yet to be finalised. This Gambling Control Bill attempted to address this anomaly, which is causing massive shop closures and job losses, and the IBA looks forward to developing the proposals in the Bill," she added.

Advertising restrictions would also apply under the current Bill, with the rules to have regard to the "principle" that gambling ads "must not contain endorsements by recognisable figures who would be regarded as idols by young persons".

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