Five years after the Government said it was to “immediately” start modernising the country’s 50-year-old gambling laws, legislation has still not been implemented.
Fianna Fáil has demanded action to push through the parts of the Gambling Control Bill which would apply age restrictions and control the marketing of the industry.
In July, 2013, then Justice Minister Alan Shatter published the heads of the Gambling Control Bill, two years after government had said it would immediately modernise the sector.
Government had said that when the laws came into force, there would be a “unified, national regulatory system” for gambling, with the minister as regulator with responsible for licensing, inspections, and prosecutions.
There was to be a restriction on the number of casinos and the numbers of table each could have; each establishment would have to hold a licence; and vulnerable adults and young people, who are prone to gambling addiction, would be protected.
However, the Gambling Control Bill still has not been published.
In recent days, Fianna Fáil TD Anne Rabbitte has asked Taoiseach Enda Kenny when it would be brought before the Dáil.
In response, Mr Kenny said the issue is “very complicated”.
“The deputy is aware of how things are with regard to digitisation and how gambling takes place,” he said. “Work has continued on the bill for quite some time, but it will not be brought forward during this session.”
Ms Rabbitte sent a follow-up question to Department of Justice junior minister David Stanton asking when the bill would be published.
He told her it remains the Government’s intention to “proceed with this legislation, at the earliest feasible opportunity”.
“Since my appointment, I have requested my departmental officials to commission a review of the scheme, published in 2013, by way of taking account of intervening developments and technologies in the gaming sector,” said Mr Stanton.
“This review will help to update policy in this area. The review process is ongoing for completion by the end of this year.”
Ms Rabbitte said she could not believe the digitisation reasoning for the delay had been put forward by the Taoiseach.
She said there are huge aspects of the legislation which do not require digitisation, including age restrictions and marketing, and she said these parts could be implemented “sooner rather later”.
Ms Rabbitte said she has seen and heard reports of children in school uniforms going into local bookmakers to place bets. “And they can obviously access it online,” she added.
Mr Stanton said that, pending the forwarding of the main bill, “which is a major undertaking”, he has asked his department to examine if there are any “individual, pressing areas of concern” intended to be dealt with in the bill which could be dealt with sooner, in the new year, by separate legislative measures.
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