Measures will target gambling dens

JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter is to target unregulated gambling dens and clubs in a bid to protect young and vulnerable people exposed to the industry.

Proposed legislation will also empower the minister with tough supervisory and inspection powers over online gambling, betting shops and even bingo venues.

The measures will ensure there is strict control over an initiative to encourage small casinos in towns and cities.

Announcing draft legislation yesterday, Mr Shatter said: “We have very real concerns about the level of gambling addictions, about the impact on young people of what’s available to them. We have basically at this stage an unregulated gambling sector within the state taking account of all the technological developments, [like] online access.”

The Cabinet this week signed off on drafting the legislation to modernise gambling laws. Ministers also want to rake in some of the lucrative profits collected through online gambling, claiming the state is being short-changed there.

The Department of Justice claimed attempts to curtail unlicensed private clubs through prosecutions had failed.

Modest-size casinos will be permitted under the laws. But the Cabinet ruled out allowing large resort-type developments, like Las Vegas in the US or Macau in China.

Mr Shatter said: “Only those promoters meeting high standards of personal and financial probity will be considered for a licence.”

While large casinos could attract tourists and jobs, there are fears other “activities” like crime could pose a risk to areas.

Laws will not be drafted until 2012 due to the legislative work being done as agreed with EU lenders, he said.

Two renowned addiction treatment centres yesterday said there had been a notable increase in young gamblers seeking help in recent years.

Mick Devine, the clinical director with Tabor Lodge in Cork, said that men as young as 18 were seeking help, a trend which began in the boom.

“You had young men [then] wanting a fun and fast recreational lifestyle.”

Deputy director Austin Prior with Dublin’s Rutland centre said online gambling had contributed to a 30% rise in addicts presenting. Clients had gambled away anything from €30,000 to €250,000 since the Celtic Tiger, Mr Prior said, adding: “People got carried away on a high”.

He said that the creation of more casinos could mean more gambling problems for people in society.

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