As Ireland’s government moves favorably on a new bill today, gambling ads on TV and radio will face new restrictions. At the same time, the first Gambling Regulation Bill suggests sending gambling operators who violate the rules to prison for up to eight years.
Ireland only recently introduced its first gambling regulator, the Gambling Regulatory Authority (GRA). The government isn’t wasting time setting up the legal framework to govern the gaming space.
Changes are coming to the industry, but the final outcome rests on today’s vote. The government already approved the new bill, but could still make changes before it goes live.
Watershed for Gambling Ads
In line with what some other countries are considering, Ireland will ban all TV and radio gambling ads from 5:30 AM to 9 PM. However, unlike other jurisdictions, Ireland might implement stricter controls for violators.
Any breach during the blackout period will result in a large fine. In addition, in some cases, it could also lead to a suspension or withdrawal of the operator’s license.
Online gambling ads are under fire, as well. The Gambling Regulation Bill stipulates that all Irish consumers have to be able to opt in before seeing them.
Inducements to attract new users have been a staple of online gaming operators, but they won’t be in Ireland. The legislation bans all forms of incentives, including VIP programs, free bets and special offers.
The goal of the changes is the same as it is everywhere else – to protect children and problem gamblers. If the newly-formed GRA uncovers a violation, operators can expect to pay heavily. Fines can be as much as €20 million (US$20,782) or 10% of the operator’s total revenue.
Land-based operators will have to prepare for additional changes. The gambling bill tasks the GRA with establishing guidelines on how these will reduce their storefront advertising to minimize gambling exposure.
The legislation also includes the creation of a national gambling exclusion registry. The GRA will require all gambling operators in Ireland to register with the regulator to properly maintain the list. To self-exclude, a person with a gambling problem can add his or her details to the database, and all companies will have to ensure that the person is excluded.
Prison Time For Violators
This bill will be the most comprehensive and extensive legislation ever to regulate gambling in Ireland. It will also fundamentally alter the rules for all gambling in Ireland, including online and physical gambling.
There is a call for operators to fund gambling research programs, as well as treatment. This is a standard measure in many countries, although Ireland has not yet pinpointed what it might collect.
In addition to monetary fines, gambling companies that fail to provide protection for children will be subject to punitive sanctions, as well. This includes imprisonment of up to eight years under the GRA.
It isn’t clear how that might work. Because the operator itself cannot be sent to prison, a company executive would have to be the proxy. This could mean a CEO or COO may be liable for any violation.
After the government approved the legislation this morning, it could take effect in the first half of next year. This past September, Ireland appointed Anne Marie Caulfield as the new head of the first-ever GRA. However, until the final approval and subsequent publication of the bill, she has no official authority.
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