The Irish government is to begin regulating and licensing casino clubs in a first step towards a liberalisation of gambling laws in the country, reports the Irish Times. It appears as if earlier plans to set up a cross-party committee to plan the way forward have been abandoned because the politicians couldn't reach consensus on such a committee's mandate.
Nevertheless, the goverment is pushing forward with a new strategy that begins with the appointment of a controlling board responsible for first identifying, registering and controlling the private gambling clubs that will need to be brought into the fold, then considering other forms of gambling such as the Internet genre and finally drawing up and implementing regulatory codes and legislation.
Technically illegal in Ireland, casino gaming is offered in around 50 of the private clubs, and an important test case will be heard in the courts shortly following a police raid last year on a club in Clonmel (see previous InfoPowa report).
Online gambling will be considered by the new control board, which will carry out a review to examine the opportunities and threats posed by the online gaming industry, developments in the UK and the out-of-date nature of current legislation.
The Irish Times recalls that an industry-sponsored report recently claimed that regulation could generate up to Euro 280 million for the Irish economy and create 13 000 new jobs - mostly in the IT and software development sector - by 2020.
Gambling industry analysts have welcomed the government initiative, but stressed the need to seriously consider the opportunities offered by the online gambling industry. One expert reminded the government that in its own report, published last year, it was found that the sector had huge potential from a job creation point of view.
Prerequisites in any new legislation will be voluntary compliance by operators with a code of standards and ethics, and existing operators are not guaranteed accreditation and, presumably, licensing.
“In reality, by virtue of introducing regulation, it is likely that some venues may have to close down due to an inability to meet the conditions and standards expected in a regulatory environment,” a government spokesman said recently.
Clubs will be subject to strict oversight by the controlling body and will have to comply with anti-money laundering and terrorist financing legislation. And large-scale casino developments will not be permitted, the spokesman emphasised, clearly a reference to the furore in British politics during debate on the gambling reforms carried out in that country two years ago.
The longer-term aim is to put in place “a modern, responsive code that recognises the fact that some people gamble and enjoy gambling," the spokesman explained. However, inherent dangers such as problem gambling, protection of under-18s and avoidance of criminal involvement would have to be addressed, he added.
Michael Walsh, a principal officer in the civil service, has been appointed to act as an authorised officer responsible for registering and controlling private members’ clubs. His unit will also bring forward a comprehensive new gambling code, designed to ensure that gambling is kept free of crime and is conducted fairly and openly. The new code will also focus on protecting young people.
Because the Irish Republic is a member of the EU, any new legislation will have to be compliant with the EU Treaty.