What's Happening In Ireland? An Update from A & L Goodbody

Update provided by Joe Kelly, Partner, and J.J. McLoughlin, Solicitor, A&L Goodbody

The current Irish gambling legislation dates back to 1931 when the Betting Act was introduced to regulate this form of gambling in Ireland. The 1931 Act is still in force today, though it was amended in 2015 to include a licencing system for remote bookmakers. 

Gaming and lotteries are dealt with under a separate piece of legislation, the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956. Unlike betting, gaming in Ireland is still prohibited except in very limited circumstances such as in licensed amusement halls and at funfairs, or for a charitable or philanthropic purpose. Private member casino clubs are also operating in Ireland and the authorities appear to have taken a view that the current legislation does not prohibit them. 

Unlike the 1931 Act, the 1956 Act was never updated to deal with online gaming or lotteries, and in practice many remote operators offer gaming and lottery products to customers in Ireland. The 1956 Act does not expressly state that it has extra territorial effect, so arguably gaming or lottery services provided from outside of Ireland, to customers in Ireland, are not prohibited.

Despite a number of governmental reports recommending reform of the outdated gambling laws, the 1931 Act and the 1956 Act remain law today. In 2013 the government published a Scheme for a Gambling Control Bill. This outlined what the Irish government intended to adopt in its proposed Gambling Control Bill to reform Irish gambling laws. 

Following on from this, the government set up an interdepartmental working group to review the changes that needed to be made to the 2013 Scheme. That group met throughout 2018 and published its report in March 2019. Some of the main recommendations in that report provide for the establishment of an independent regulator with responsibility for all gaming, betting and lottery activity in Ireland.

The most recent government announcement is that detailed legislation based on that scheme is being drafted. 

As an interim reform measure, the report also recommended that certain parts of the current Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 should be updated pending the introduction of a comprehensive Gambling Control Bill.

The Minister of State, David Stanton has recently said that he hopes to bring forward an updated Scheme for a comprehensive Gambling Control Bill in late 2019 with a view to publishing it in 2020. Assuming the recommendations in the 2019 interdepartmental report are reflected in the draft legislation, 2020 may well witness the introduction of a modern, comprehensive framework for gambling which will make Ireland a very attractive jurisdiction for operators.