TD wants gambling laws updated amid fears criminal gangs using sector to 'launder money'

Ireland must draw up strict new gambling laws due to fears the sector is being used for money laundering, writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith of the Irish Examiner.

Unaligned Independent TD Maureen O Sullivan also said today that ordinary people are losing a combined €5bn on bets every year.

She insisted the existing laws are failing to ensure casinos, slot machine halls, online sites and private members clubs are fully licensed and crime-free.

Speaking during the latest Dáil leaders questions debate, the Dublin Central TD said despite the fact there has been anti-betting legislation and regulations in place since 1931 they are now "outdated" and "do not take account" of modern-day gambling.

Hitting out at the situation, she said "there is no ensuring gambling is provided crime-free" in Ireland and that immediate action is needed by Government.

Ms O Sullivan said the reality is "30-35% of players are problem gamblers" - an issue which is leading to relationships breaking up, the loss of homes and depression - and that as much as €5bn is being lost by the public through betting every year.

Warning the issue is of "huge concern", she added that there is evidence crime gangs are also using some parts of the sector to launder money, with gardaí recently finding a betting slip worth more than €8m in the possession of a well-known gang.

Responding to the comments during the same debate, Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said she accepts the problems associated with gambling in Ireland are of "huge concern" to her, stressing "addiction is part of it".

She said there is a need to introduce fresh regulations which have been under consideration by Government for a number of months, and that any involvement in the sector by criminal gangs conducting money laundering must be tackled immediately.

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