The immediate implementation of a gambling regulator and bans on in-game betting and credit card gambling form the crux of Fianna Fáil’s approach to the thorny issue, launched this morning.
Justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan said that should his party come to power after the February 8 election he would be “disappointed” if the regulator were not in place before the end of the year.
That regulator would be funded by a levy on the industry, Mr O’Callaghan said.
“This is an industry that capitalises on an illness,” his colleague, Mayo TD Lisa Chambers, said.
Gambling advertising would be confined to the post-watershed hours, Mr O’Callaghan said, with the issue of online adverts to be “tackled”.
As regards how to handle online advertising in practice, Mr O’Callaghan made no specific commitments, but cited the prevalence of such advertising surrounding the English Premiership as of particular concern.
He commended the GAA for its work to date on problem gambling, and committed to a ban on gambling entities sponsoring sporting events here.
Asked whether or not a ban on whistle-to-whistle betting reflects a nanny state mentality, Mr O’Callaghan said that it is “the responsibility of the State to protect those who are vulnerable”.
“We know from research and we know from anecdotal evidence that there are many people out there who are exposed to problem gambling,” he said, adding a pointed criticism of Fine Gael who he said had committed to bringing forward a gambling control bill in 2013 but had failed to do so.
He said that the ban on in-game betting would be handled by the new regulator.
“Then if companies breach the regulations they risk losing their licence,” he said.
“They will comply because their bottom line will be threatened,” he said, adding that the issue of gambling is a moral one and not a question of funding the exchequer via levies.
The party has also committed to “end” the “insidious practice” of so-called loot box gambling as evidenced in online games played predominantly by children.
Meanwhile, Mr O’Callaghan said that his party’s refusal to countenance going into coalition with Sinn Féin had not been raised much with him on the doorsteps throughout the campaign.
“I think this is an issue that has been misrepresented by Sinn Féin,” he said.
They have tried to present it as though they’re being hard done by because Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are keeping them out of Government.
“It's not our job to determine whether or not Sinn Féin go into government or not, but we do have the entitlement to decide who we go into coalition with,” he said.
“That's all we're saying so we're not saying Sinn Féin can’t go into Government, we’re saying who Fianna Fáil will go into coalition with.”