Ireland tightens grip on online and offline gambling sector

The Irish government has pushed ahead with new legislation which could have a big impact on the country’s land-based and online gambling sectors, as announced on Tuesday, 15 November.

Approved by the Cabinet, the Gambling Regulation Bill provides for a modernisation of existing gambling rules, taking into account new developments in the sector and the reality of new technologies. Irish Taoiseach Michael Martin said it is a “long-awaited and much-needed new bill.”

“The ever-changing but technologically advanced nature of the gambling industry means that children and teenagers are more exposed than ever to both overt and subtle gambling advertising,” said Roderic O’Gorman, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, at the legislation’s launch on Tuesday. 

He added, “It is important that this is properly regulated to ensure that where gambling is advertised, it is done in a way that minimises harmful influences to young people.” 

The new rules place a big emphasis on gambling advertising and protecting minors from accessing any kind of gambling content. For example, a new watershed will make it illegal to advertise any kind of gambling anywhere between 5:30 am and 9 pm each day. Advertising of gambling sites online will also be banned unless the user has expressly opted in to see them.

Additionally, it will be illegal for any child to be inside any premises that offer or facilitates any kind of gambling. It will also be prohibited for any events that involve or interest children to show any type of gambling advertising or promotion.

In the sporting world, football clubs with junior teams will not be allowed to accept sponsorships from gambling companies, which could hit clubs particularly hard. The rules will hit even international gambling brands as they will not be allowed to show adverts for any event broadcast within Ireland.

The bill also includes incentives and bonuses to entice adults to gamble. This can consist of hospitality, such as free drinks and food in land-based casinos, VIP treatment, free bets and spins, and various special offers. This will apply online and offline, a bitter pill to swallow for operators who rely on building loyalty with players via these methods.

Like the UK, Ireland will make it illegal to bet using a credit card or any other kind of credit facility. Cash machines will no longer be allowed inside bookies, but not to racetracks, as they also provide food and drink services.

All gambling companies operating in Ireland will now be required to join a soon-to-be-created National Gambling Exclusion Register. This platform will allow gamblers to register themselves if they feel they have an actual or potential gambling problem. Once their name is on the list, they will be blanked, banned from all gambling sites, and unable to gamble.

Last but not least, a new watchdog, the Gambling Regulatory Authority, will be created and is expected to be operational some time in 2023. The authority will have the power to enforce penalties of up to EUR 20 million or 10% of annual turnover or even to ask for prison sentences of up to eight years for executives at companies that flour the rules or operate without a license.

Companies registered in Ireland will be bound to pay a new levy to finance a new Social Impact Fund to raise awareness about problem gambling and offer support to those affected.

This could see Ireland become one of the world’s toughest jurisdictions for online gambling regulation. This might make it an unsuitable option for many online gambling operators, but do not worry, there are plenty of other options. For example, Fast Offshore works in jurisdictions such as Curacao, Kahnawake, Costa Rica, Malta and the Isle of Man. While each has its own set of rules and restrictions, they are viable options for businesses looking for a flexible working environment. As corporate service providers, we take care of incorporation, structuring, payments, compliance, licenses, and all ongoing maintenance. For first-class advice and guidance on the requirements and rules of the main iGaming jurisdictions and help setting up your business, contact Fast Offshore today.