By Michelle Devane, PA
New laws will safeguard against “truly awful” gambling addiction that can be devastating for families, the Taoiseach has said.
Micheál Martin said the “long-awaited and much-needed” proposed legislation “takes a responsible approach” to regulating the gambling sector in the country.
The Gambling Regulation Bill was approved by Government ministers at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
The planned laws aim to create a “modern, robust regulatory and licensing regime” for the gambling sector.
It also paves the way for the establishment of a gambling regulator, who will have the powers to regulate advertising, gambling websites and apps.
It will give legislative underpinning to the new Gambling Regulatory Authority.
The Government wants to have the authority operational next year.
“It introduces a series of new safeguards to protect people from falling prey to gambling addiction, while also balancing the freedom and joy of responsible gambling,” Mr Martin said.
“This bill provides a clearer framework for operators and for consumers.”
The Taoiseach added: “There are of course, many people in our country who enjoy a bet, and for whom it’s part of their social life, but we must also acknowledge and safeguard against the truly awful impact that gambling addiction can and does have on some families and communities.
“I believe that with this bill we’re taking an important step forward in promoting responsible behaviour on the part of both the gambling industry and consumers through robust regulations.
“Crucially, the legislation ensures that the authority will have significant enforcement powers to penalise those who break the rules.”
The Fianna Fail leader also told a press conference at Government Buildings in Dublin that “when gambling becomes a problem for an individual or a family the impact can be absolutely devastating”.
“The steps we’re taking today to recognise and help protect against that damage is, as I’ve said, important work,” he added.
A ban on gambling advertising between 5.30am and 9pm each day is among the measures contained in the bill.
Junior Minister James Browne said strict regulation of gambling advertising will be a priority area for the authority.
“Under the legislation, advertising intended to appeal to children and advertising that promotes excessive or compulsive gambling would be prohibited,” he said.
“A watershed prohibiting gambling advertising at certain times of the day, between 5am and 9pm will be introduced.
“In this digital age to address a particular proliferation of gambling advertising on social media, such advertising will be prohibited by default.
“The bill will allow the authority to prescribe the times, places and events where gambling advertising can be broadcast, displayed or published.”
Mr Browne said among the measures aimed at minimising the ill-effects of gambling is a proposal to prohibit the use of credit methods of payment to gamble.
“It is really important that people cannot gamble on credit cards and get themselves into debt because of that,” the Junior Minister said.
The bill also proposes a ban on ATM facilities in certain premises and an exclusive register will be established that would allow people to register with the authority to exclude themselves from gambling online with the licenses.
Mr Browne said there will also be a Social Impact Fund from the industry, which will support initiatives to reduce and eliminate compulsive and excessive gambling.