The United Kingdom is often heralded as the market leader for European gambling, but Ireland is pushing it close in terms of revenues and participation levels. The British population stands at just under 70 million and with annual gross gambling yields of £15 billion.
Despite having a population of just over 4 million, Irish gross gambling yields in 2018 surpassed 5 billion euros. The 2 billion spent online by Irish punters represents 11% of the overall EU market share.
It’s fair to say then, that Ireland is a dominant force when it comes to global gambling, but is the government making the most of it economically?
Gambling in Ireland – The Legal Situation
As a country, Ireland has struggled with the negative connotations of gambling for some time and many critics believe this is the fault of the government. The current gambling legislation could at best be described as ambiguous – at worst, ineffective.
In other countries around the world it often takes between three and twelve months to obtain a gambling licence. It Ireland it can take up to five times longer, with the process itself being described as ‘laborious, time-consuming and obstinate’ by one bookmaker.
If that protracted license process wasn’t bad enough, there is no recognised governing body to force companies to operate with a licence. As a result there are a large number of betting companies in Ireland operating effectively, outside of the law.
The current ‘gambling laws’ only pertain to land-based casinos and bookmakers in Ireland, leaving the remote sector to operate how it wishes. Currently Irish gamblers can avail of all bonuses from NetEnt Casino, but they can also run into problems with unscrupulous providers.
When Will Dáil Éireann Update Gambling Laws?
The ‘Gambling Control Bill’ has been debated by Dáil Éireann for the last six years, and at time of writing it looks no closer to inception than it did in 2013. The major sticking point is a lack of consensus over what the new bill should and should not regulate.
The majority of TD’s support the extensive regulation over the gambling industry, but they just cannot agree on how to implement it. Think of it like the Brexit debate in Britain, everyone agrees that something must happen, they just appear unwilling to make it happen.
The argument for the Gambling Control Bill
Prominent figures such as Sharon Byrne, David Hickson and Maureen O’Sullivan are all in favour of the Gambling Control Bill. O’Sullivan believes that the bill will be vital in combatting organised crime and money laundering saying, “1% of the industry is regulated for money laundering, which means that 99% are not”.
Hickson and Bryne both believe that the current gambling laws are outdated – having been formed in the 1950’s. They believe that it is the government’s responsibility to heavily regulate the gambling industry.
They argue that current laws do not do enough to catch problem gambling early and provide support to troubled customers. There are also concerns over the policing of underage gambling, which Hickson and Byrne believe will be improved with the passing of the Gambling Control Bill.
What Effect Would the Gambling Control Bill Have?
The biggest change to the industry would come in terms of licensing, every operator would have the opportunity to obtain a new licence through a streamlined service. By participating in this process, gambling providers would be agreeing to the new terms and regulations of service set out by the Irish government.
Every gambling company would have to demonstrate in detail the internal systems that they use to combat money laundering and problem gambling. The government would also be able to directly tax licenced providers, giving the Irish economy a boost.
If the bill were to be passed tomorrow it appears likely that maximum stake limits would also be introduced for online slot machines and fixed odds betting terminals, something which has been recently introduced in Britain.
Within the gambling industry this would not be a popular decision. However it would presumably go down well with the public and the vocal critics of gambling.
- Ireland punches well above its weight in terms of gross gambling yields and incomes, however much of that is currently not being taxed by the government.
- A ‘Brexit-style’ lack of consensus is responsible for the six year hold up in the implementation of the Gambling Control Bill, with no movement expected anytime soon.
- A carbon copy of the British gambling regulation laws may be the only deal that would receive a consensus in the Dáil.