Minister to crack down on 'wild west' illegal raffles and lotteries at sports clubs
A government minister believes many sporting club lottos and locally run raffles are operating illegally.
Junior Justice Minister David Stanton said he feared certain lotteries, including some raising funds for GAA clubs, were operating without approval or in breach of restrictions on the size of prizes.
The comments came as he prepares to introduce legislation by the end of the year paving the way for an independent regulatory authority for the gambling industry.
In an interview with the Irish Independent, Mr Stanton said he was also committed to introducing a "social fund levy" on betting companies, with the cash generated being ringfenced for the treatment of gambling addicts.
Mr Stanton (60), a Fine Gael TD for Cork East, said he was "extremely concerned" at the lack of regulation of gambling, and legislation governing the area was "completely out of date and not fit for purpose".
"Some commentators have described it as the wild west out there," he said. "Every time you pull a string in the gambling ball of twine other things emerge. For example, most lotteries at the moment are not legal. Most raffles that occur are not legal. There is a lot of stuff going on out there that is not legal at all."
Mr Stanton has been tasked with moving forward legislation covering gambling. A number of the proposals were previously made by the last government, but were not implemented.
In relation to local lotteries and raffles, the minister said: "Some of them, not all of them, may be acting without proper authority and regulation." He said people can "mean well", but could be flouting the law due to a lack of awareness.
The law as it stands limits the size of weekly prize pots in such lotteries to €5,000, where a permit is issued by a Garda superintendent, and €30,000, where a lottery licence is granted by a district court. Garda-issued permits last for six months, but problems can emerge when the size of the lottery prize grows larger than anticipated if the jackpot rolls over.
While the law may be being broken, various criminal justice sources told the Irish Independent they were unaware of any prosecutions taking place.
Mr Stanton said under the Government's proposals, a standard age at which people are allowed to gamble will be introduced. It is likely to be set at 18.
Commenting on the minister's plans, Irish Bookmakers Association chairperson Sharon Byrne said it was broadly supportive. "We would like to see a regulator that is competent, that can understand the industry and can work with the industry," she said.