Over €2m spent on delayed Gambling Authority in Ireland

Liam O’Sullivan
June 20, 2024

To date, more than €2m has been spent on the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland, despite it not being operational due to delays in passing necessary legislation.

Information from the Department of Justice, shared on Saturday with Colm O’ Mongáin, reveals that €161,000 was spent in 2022 on preparing to set up the authority, including some staffing expenses.

Last year, the total spending amounted to €1.63m, and by the end of March this year, an additional €303,000 had been spent. Out of the 11 approved positions, nine have been filled.

Minister of State at the Department of Justice, James Browne, stated that a new bill addressing gambling addiction will be presented to the Cabinet next Tuesday, with the report and final stages expected the following week.

Speaking on the same programme, Deputy Browne mentioned that the legislation will then proceed to the Seanad, where he anticipates it will “move relatively quickly”.

He described the current gambling addiction situation as “quite devastating”, noting that the existing laws, which date back several decades, are outdated and inadequate.

“It’s a significant piece of legislation,” he explained. “We’re attempting to regulate an essentially unregulated area in terms of licensing. We’re approaching this from a public health perspective, including anti-money laundering measures and child protection provisions.”

“We’ve included a social fund to levy the industry for education, treatment, and awareness. The regulator will be self-financing through this levy, making it a substantial piece of legislation.”

Mr Browne acknowledged the complexity of the legislation and admitted that addressing these complexities was “probably a bit more difficult than we expected,” but he remains “very optimistic” about its swift progress.

He mentioned facing “significant lobbying” and criticism for not engaging with lobbyists sooner, but he was “very steadfast” in asserting that the Irish online casino sector will be regulated.

“This bill is comprehensive and will dramatically improve gambling legislation in this country with robust public health measures,” he stated. “I wish it had passed by now; it has been challenging, but it’s a massive piece of legislation.”

Professor Colin O’Gara, a consultant psychiatrist and head of addiction services at St John of God Hospital, emphasised the need to protect the next generation from gambling addiction harm.

Prof O’Gara highlighted a “dramatic increase” in gambling-related harm over the past decade, citing recent figures showing that 130,000 people in Ireland are severely affected by gambling, 279,000 show signs of gambling harm, and 15% of the population will experience at least one negative gambling-related incident.

“That totals nearly a million people in Ireland affected by gambling harm,” he noted. “It’s a staggering figure.”

He pointed out that gambling addiction is “incredibly hidden” compared to other addictions, making it difficult for individuals to talk about.

“Our goal with this legislation is twofold: first, to provide care for those in need, and second, to protect the next generation from harm by stopping the bombardment of young people with ads,” he said.

Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon also spoke on the programme, calling the legislation “vital” and questioning the delays. He criticised the allowance of gambling advertisements after 9pm and advocated for a full 24-hour ban.

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith described gambling addiction as a “hugely serious problem” and expressed “no doubt” that lobbying was contributing to the delay.

Author Liam O’Sullivan

Liam O’Sullivan is an SEO writer with many years of experience in the iGaming industry. His goal is to simplify and bring closer all complex analyses of various aspects of the online casino industry through the reviews on this site to all readers. All information shared through textual content is verified and checked.