Plan for national gambling control office to tackle sector

New laws to create a national gambling control office to clamp down on addiction, restrict advertising, and tackle alleged money-laundering in the sector could be introduced before Christmas under plans being pushed by Fianna Fáil.

The party’s weekly meeting of TDs and senators will tonight be asked to support the move amid concern over alleged delays in addressing problems and fears the prevalence of gambling online is putting a generation at risk.

While no agreement has been made with Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil’s frontbench members yesterday agreed to back plans put forward by children’s spokeswoman Anne Rabbitte, justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan, and back-bencher Jack Chambers to table the bill before the Christmas break.

Specifically, the bill will request the creation of a sector-funded national gambling control office and new restrictions on advertising targeting U18s via phone apps and websites.

It will seek to end the “self-exclusion” system where a casino does not have to stop serving someone who is a problem gambler unless the person admits there is an issue through their own volition.

It will seek strict rules and checks to examine whether some casinos, bookmakers, and online gambling sites are being used to “clean” laundered money by criminal gangs.

Ms Rabbitte told the Irish Examiner the bill is needed immediately due to the growing scale of problem gambling in Ireland, and hit out at delays in addressing the crisis by the current and former governments.

She said the bill needs to be backed in a non-partisan way by parties, and should, if possible, be debated and passed before Christmas without the need to go to amendment stages.

“We need to have an office of gambling control in Ireland,” said Ms Rabbitte. “There has been a lot of lobbying from the industry against these measures, but we need a real response.”

Recent figures from Gambling Aware suggest at least 40,000 people in Ireland have a gambling addiction, with €5bn spent on various gambling games in this country every year — €10,000 a minute.

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