Among a number of interesting articles on Internet gambling this week was a piece published by the Silicon Republic.com on opportunities for Ireland in the online gambling industry.
Quoting execs from the Fitzwilliam Card Club and live gambling provider VueTec (who work together to beam casino action over the Internet), the article notes that although an antiquated gambling law is currently an obstacle, Ireland has a great opportunity to join other forward-looking nations like the British in benefiting from the massive global demand for Internet gambling.
Fitzwilliam Card Club manager David Hickson, who is also a director of Ireland's Gaming and Leisure Association trade body, told the author of the Silicon Republic piece that Ireland has already lost out on major job-creation opportunities by [gambling] businesses that were tempted to locate to the Emerald Isle. "They shied away because, at the end of the day, they weren't given the reassurances in terms of regulation that they would like to have.
"Ireland has a huge opportunity to establish itself as a major hub of the online gaming sector," Hickson claimed. "There is a very tight timeline for Ireland to get this right. The UK has already moved to put a regulatory structure in place to capture this vibrant industry, but it got its taxation structure for the industry wrong. France and Spain are working on the legislation, so Ireland needs to hurry up.
"The [Irish] Government is taking a one-step-at-a-time approach. The focus now should be on job creation from an industry that is as relevant to the future as IT, finance or pharmaceuticals. We have a thriving data-centre industry here in Dublin that would be ripe to support this industry.
"If they fear a backlash over the morals of gambling they need not. This is a very highly regulated, sophisticated industry. Because of the internet, player protection can be facilitated more robustly online. Everything is recorded and every game is tracked. We don't accept non-cash bets, for example, and the spending limit is Euro 250."
Hickson revealed that the Gaming and Leisure Association has been lobbying for the past three years to see new legislation and a regulatory framework put in place.
"But if people are worried about problem gambling, regulation is the correct way to proceed. However, until you have a framework, there is nothing to say that Ireland is a reputable place for locating a large job-creating investment here."
The Silicon Republic article goes on to report that according to a study by DKM Consultants, if Ireland were to put the right legal regulatory infrastructure in place it could play host to a large number of online casino companies that would generate employment and tax revenue for the Exchequer.
The report suggests that if Ireland were to capture just 5 percent of the global online casino business it would represent a local sector worth Euro 2.2 billion that could generate some 5 000 jobs in online gambling and supporting services, at an average salary of Euro 40 000 per annum.
Paddy Power is used as an example of the powerful potential of the industry; the company has a successful Irish and UK online business but has had to locate these operations on the Isle of Man. And online casino software provider Cryptologic in Dublin employs 400 people, another illustration of what could be possible.
A report by the casino committee for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has described the current 1956 Gambling Act as a "relic of social history utterly unsuited to effectively regulate gaming in a modern wealthy European state" and has called for a modern and effective system of regulation.
Such a system of regulation would open the doors to a "remote gaming industry" that it describes as a multibillion-Euro financial-services industry similar to the financial and technology industries Ireland has already attracted.
Geoff Collins of VueTec, which teams with the Fitzwilliam Card Club to beam live gambling over the Internet to players outside Ireland said that the window of opportunity for Ireland is shrinking: "The gaming industry is looking for a regulated open economy in which to invest. The biggest gamble Ireland can make is to continue to make slow progress on it. The industry is going to march on and the question is: does Ireland want to have a part of it?"
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