New laws to target problem gambling

Charlie Flanagan.

Betting firms could be forced to shut down compulsive gamblers’ accounts by a new independent gambling regulator or face the prospect of significant fines under new Government plans.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan is expected to bring the proposal to Cabinet today as part of a new crackdown on betting firms which will also see fresh restrictions on online and TV adverts and potential moves to regulate casinos.

In response to a recent Fianna Fáil bill on the same issue by children’s spokeswoman Anne Rabbitte and backbench TD Jack Chambers, the Fine Gael- Independents coalition has agreed to impose new laws on the gambling sector.

And with a clear focus on the damage out-of-control gambling can cause on households, Mr Flanagan will this morning ask for Cabinet approval for new measures to tackle the controversial industry.

It is understood the new plans will include the creation of an independent gambling regulator which will have the right to impose significant fines on gambling firms which do not comply with new laws.

These new laws will include demands to freeze or shut down the accounts of compulsive gamblers if it can be proven they are losing large quantities of money they may not be able to repay — with the regulator allowed to secretly pose as a compulsive gambler to check if the rules are being implemented.

In addition, the bill will seek to regulate the casino sector with a new licensing system and outlawing fixed-odd betting terminals.

The new rules are intended to help compulsive gamblers who are losing thousands of euro every month due to their addiction.

However, despite the positive intentions of the plans, they are likely to be criticised by gamblers and some betting firms as a nanny-state tactic that is putting strict limitations on a person’s private rights.

Shane Ross.
Shane Ross.

Meanwhile, it is expected today’s Cabinet meeting — which is certain to be dominated by the ongoing fallout from the cervical cancer tests scandal — will also see Transport Minister Shane Ross put forward widely leaked plans to put in place new home-to-pub buses in rural areas this summer to combat drink-driving.

Up to 50 isolated regions are set to benefit from the move, which is intended to placate critics of Mr Ross’s recent clampdown on drink-driving in Ireland.

Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney is also due to give ministers an update on Brexit amid fresh division within British prime minister Theresa May’s minority Conservative government.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed will also bring forward an update on his department’s TB eradication plans for farm animals, while Mr Flanagan is to ask permission to make the parole board an independent body.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet is likely to sign off on plans to hold a second ministerial meeting later this week outside of Dublin to mark the two year anniversary of the formation of the Fine Gael-Independents minority Government coalition. The extra Cabinet meeting is expected to take place on Friday.

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