Irish Problem Gambling Organization Seeks Ban on Free Bets

An Irish problem gambling organization is calling for a ban on the so-called free bets offered by online bookmakers and for the introduction of a set of measures that will ensure gambling products are advertised in a socially responsible manner, local news outlets report.

Barry Grant from Problem Gambling Ireland told local media that politicians and regulators will have to focus their attention on free bets as one of gambling operators’ most popular means to attract new customers. Mr. Grant went on to say that if compared to advertising alcoholic beverages, no alcohol producer would be allowed to distribute free drink vouchers without any particular regulations in place.

The Problem Gambling Ireland’s comments come at a time when the Irish government is preparing for a massive gambling overhaul that, among other things, will see the creation of a special regulatory body which will oversee the provision of gambling services within the country’s borders. The independent regulatory authority will also have the power to license gambling operators and to refuse or revoke licenses.

Regulatory Changes Long in the Works

Last week, Republic of Ireland’s Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan was given the green light by the government to proceed with the long-delayed gambling regulation overhaul. It was back in 2013 when the Gambling Control Bill, a legislative piece aimed to replace the country’s existing gambling laws from around six decades ago, was first voted and approved. However, the bill has never moved any forward since then. It will be up to Minister Flanagan to update the piece in a manner that will include different developments within the gambling industry.

With that said, the Irish government will seek to regulate the provision of online gambling and to create better tools for monitoring gambling-related social media advertising.

As mentioned above, the gambling overhaul will also involve the establishment of an independent regulator that will be responsible for monitoring the local gambling market’s development upon its re-regulation and to carry out the necessary background checks on every gambling entity interested to operate in Ireland.

It was also confirmed on Monday that, as part of the upcoming gambling overhaul, operators licensed in Ireland will have to contribute to a specially established social fund, in order to be able to operate in the country. A mandatory levy will be imposed for the purpose. Both smaller Irish operators and their larger international counterparts will have to pay said levy. It is also important to note that it will apply to both land-based and online gambling operators. Penalties will be imposed to businesses that fail to pay the levy for one reason or another.

The levy is yet to be calculated, but it will likely represent a percentage of operators’ turnover or profits. The money contributed will be used for treatment of people with problem gambling behavior as well as for research and education purposes.

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