The Irish love to gamble and bet on sports, but local lawmakers need to bring the country’s legislation up to date.
Gambling – especially horse and greyhound racing – is a popular pastime among the Irish. The industry is regulated by the Government of Ireland, through a few important laws: the 1931 Betting Act, National Lottery Act of 1986 and the Gaming and Lotteries Acts of 1956-2003.
In 2006, the authorities decided to set up the Casino Regulation Committee and put it in charge of supervising the casino industry. A report published by the regulating body, in 2008, claims: “That relic of social history is utterly unsuited to effectively regulate gaming in a modern, wealthy European state.”
With the state’s regulations being so outdated, authorities have discussed updating them several times. A new bill was proposed last year, but it hasn’t been adopted and published yet. Meanwhile, the existing Irish gambling laws still provide local authorities with a way of controlling the gambling market, as well as help raise funds for charitable and social purposes.
Legal gambling in Ireland
Best rated online sportsbooks in Ireland:
• William Hill
With the current system in place, residents of Ireland have a few gambling options, including casino games hosted in private clubs, playing poker, betting on horse and greyhound races, online and mobile betting, as well as lottery and bingo games. The Government oversees horse wagering activities and fixed odds betting terminals are banned from local shops.
In 1956, the Irish Government banned casinos. However, business owners have learned to take advantage of a few loopholes in the legislation. Soon enough, private clubs offering casino-like games started to pop up all over the country and they’re thriving. Only Irish citizens over 21 are allowed to become members of these clubs.
Another popular gambling option in Ireland is poker. The country has hosted several poker tournaments, including the Irish Open, which is the longest running No Limit Texas hold ‘em tournament in Europe and the second longest world-wide.
Even though online gambling has become very popular in Europe, Ireland is progressing very slowly when it comes to regulating virtual casinos. There are several online sportsbooks in Ireland, but they all hold foreign licenses.
One area which is well-regulated – though laws date as far back as 1956 – is that of lottery and bingo games. Irelands fully supports these forms of gambling, as they are mostly done for charitable purposes. The state runs its own National Lottery as well, which is very popular among the locals.
New law expected to pass in 2014
Fully aware of the fact that the state’s gambling laws need a tune-up, the Irish Government is preparing a new Gambling Control Bill. Its details have been revealed last July, and lawmakers expect it to be approved and published sometime during this year.
The bill is supposed to replace all existing regulations, except those regarding the National Lottery. Under the new law, Ireland will have up to 40 casinos – each with a maximum of 15 tables – as well as legal online gambling sites. A new licensing and controlling gambling agency will be established, which will have to support itself from authorization fees and other similar charges. The regulatory body will be responsible for enforcing the law.
“This legislation has the twin objective of effectively regulating the new and dynamic gambling sector that has emerged in recent years, while also providing the opportunity to introduce important new measures to protect vulnerable adults and young people,” Alan Shatter, Minister for Justice, Equality and Defense announced.
Irish gambling companies
But even with the old laws, Ireland is home to some of the most successful betting companies. Listed on both the Irish and UK stock exchanges, PaddyPower is a famous bookmaker running a chain of licensed betting shops, as well as the country’s largest telephone wagering services. The company also offers an online sportsbook, virtual poker, bingo and casino games.
Boylesports is Ireland’s largest independent bookie, owner of 182 retail shops across the country. The company also runs a telephone betting service called “Fon-A-Bet”, the “Txt-A-Bet” text wagering service and an online sportsbook with a mobile app. Ireland even has its own gambling software provider. Dublin-based Cryptologic Limited is one of the largest software companies in the gambling industry.
These firms make millions of euro in yearly profits, proving that even without a clear and modern gambling legislation it is possible to grow into successful and well trusted businesses. Talk about luck of the Irish!