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Is Online Gambling Legal in the Republic of Ireland?

Posted by ThePOGG on May 17, 2021

Where is the Republic of Ireland and how is it Governed?

To be found in the North Atlantic, the Island of Ireland is divided geopolitically into the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland which fills around a sixth of the land mass. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom whilst the Republic of Ireland is a stand-alone country in its own right. The Republic of Ireland runs as a parliamentary democracy and they do not have a monarchy. The Irish constitution cites Irish as the official language for this country, but figures show that English is the dominant language in reality.

Which Body Oversees Gambling in the Republic of Ireland?

Currently the laws and regulations relating to gambling in the Republic of Ireland are undergoing an overhaul with the expectation of this being completed by 2023. The preparation of a Gambling Bill is underway, and the Department of Justice have made clear their intent to appoint a dedicated Gambling Regulator once the Bill has been completed and passed. Ireland moved to prohibit casino gambling in 1956 when they passed legislation to do so in the form of The Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956. As is so often the case with legality and gambling, as soon as laws are passed operators look to find loopholes in them, in the case of the 1956 Act this was not difficult to do and soon a number of members only gambling premises came into being since they were not legally forbidden. This then forced the Irish government to make moves to address this change.

It was mooted in 2013 that Irish Gambling legislation would be updated again with the proposed Gambling Control Bill 2013. As yet – almost a decade later, this Bill has not been passed and so it has no legal bearing in reality. It is unclear why there has been no forward momentum with this. Most recently – April 2021 – the Minister of Justice was asked during parliamentary questions when the government would be in a position to pass the Gambling Bill and responded:

The Programme for Government gives a clear commitment to establish a gambling regulator focused on public safety and well-being, covering gambling online and in person, and the powers to regulate advertising, gambling websites and apps. The Justice Plan 2021 identifies the enactment of legislation to licence and regulate the gambling industry as a key objective. As outlined in the Justice Plan 2021, I expect to be in a position to publish the Scheme of the Bill in Q3 2021, and will seek Government approval for the drafting of the Bill on that basis.

- http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PQ-28-04-2021-800

So it looks like the long wait for the Bill to be passed may well soon be over.

It has been stated that the eventual regulator will be referred to as the Office for Gambling Control Ireland or the OGCI. The likelihood is that, as with most gambling regulators, the OGCI will enact the Gambling Bill but have no authority to amend the laws contained in it themselves, they will defer to the relevant governmental department. The OGCI will be a subdivision of The Department of Justice and Equality and it will be the branch responsible for assessing an applicant’s suitability for licensing, the distribution of said licenses and also making sure that licensees are fully compliant with all items dictated by the Bill. The work of the OGCI will be given funding from the licensing fees collected from their licensees.

What Purpose will the Gambling Bill Serve?

Since, as yet, the Bill itself is not in existence we must look to the statements made about what its function will be when it does come into being. In the report entitled Inter-Departmental Working Group on Licensing and Regulation of gambling, the Minister of State, David Stanton, T.D. made the following statement regarding the guiding principles of the new Gambling Bill:

As the gambling industry changes, and indeed as the demographics and motivations of its customers change, so must the State’s licensing and regulatory approach. […] we must, in a transparent and proportionate manner, license and regulate gambling pursuits participated in by many citizens throughout Ireland. In doing that, we must ensure the best possible enforcement of the law and compliance with licensing conditions, increase revenue to the Exchequer, improve services to the consumer and support effective protection for those who may be vulnerable to addiction.

- http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Inter-Departmental_Working_Group_on_Future_Licensing_and_Regulation_of_Gambling.pdf/Files/Inter-Departmental_Working_Group_on_Future_Licensing_and_Regulation_of_Gambling.pdf

From this statement, it appears that the focus of the Bill will be the same as all Gambling Bills/Acts passed by benign governments and upheld by top quality governing bodies appointed by those governments to enact the items in the Bill. Compulsive gamblers will be afforded high levels of protection and those operators regulated by the Irish licensor will be held to high levels of accountability for their actions if they are found to be lacking. It also seems to be abundantly clear that the Republic of Ireland are keen to benefit their country financially by tapping into the tax revenues a regulated gambling system can bring. They have witnessed the financial benefits jurisdictions such as Malta, Gibraltar and Kahnawake receive from taking a proactive approach to gambling legislation and regulation.

The proposed Gambling Control Bill 2013 seems to place great emphasis on increasing the protection measures afforded to players from the Republic of Ireland – perhaps unsurprising since the incidence of problem gambling habits seems to be increasing globally – so too does the number of rogue and unlicensed operators trying to breach the protections jurisdictions are applying to try and prevent them recruiting customers from within their shores. The new Bill if passed dictates that:

  1. Customers cannot be extended credit for any reason or by any method by the gambling providers they access;
  2. The Minister for Justice and Equality is fully competent to make decisions about prohibiting or otherwise restricting a specific game, or indeed a whole class of game, or any gaming equipment or machines, so long as public policy gives them the scope to do so;
  3. Operators have more responsibility for stopping minors from accessing the gambling services that they offer and must make more stringent attempts to stop such things from occurring;
  4. Operators must make sure that they give full and thorough training to all those in their employ, with the addendum that personnel holding key positions within the firm must be working under a “personal license” which much be obtained separately;
  5. Any bets made by a customer are now categorised as contracts which are fully enforceable – the only exception being bets entered into by those that are taking part in underage gambling activities;
  6. The creation of a voluntary register of self-exclusion must take place and it must allow individuals to exclude themselves from participation in gambling at specific gambling premises alongside excluding themselves from accessing the gambling products that me be made available by certain gambling providers. The self-exclusion register would be held and maintained by the OGCI;
  7. The Bill stipulates that a fund must be created which will be funded by operator’s contributions which are proportionate to a particular gambling provider’s annual turnover. The proportion is yet to be announced. The money held in this fund is to be used to benefit the society the gambling operator exists in and would go towards educational resources and programmes designed to raise awareness of the negative issues that may arise as a result of gambling. It may also be utilised for funding required to engage a programme of research, or to offer treatment and support to those afflicted by gambling addiction or compulsion. The fund may also be used to help facilitate the provision of the self-exclusion register.

Is Online Gambling Legal in the Republic of Ireland?

Currently, online gambling in the Republic of Ireland is legal regardless of where the operator an Irish citizen plays with is based. There are no impediments to taking part in remote gambling for players resident in this jurisdiction. Unfortunately, there is also no regulation or licensing in place yet for this sector either. If the Gambling Bill does get passed, then soon this will no longer be the case and operators will have to be in possession of licenses across 2 categories. Firstly, for Category 1: Betting - the basic licenses - they require 2 licenses – 1E and 1F or they cannot offer these services remotely. Secondly, Category 2: Gaming – the basic licenses - requires them to hold a further 2 licenses – 2O and 2P or they are prohibited from extending these services to customers. The system for applying for a license looks to be very complex which may be part of the reason why the passing of the Bill has been held up for so long.

Those wishing to enter casino premises must be aged 18 or over and the minimum age for taking part in gambling activities such as playing slot machines in arcades and funfairs is 16. This will be raised to 18 too if the Gambling Bill successfully makes its way through the courts.

At the present time residents of the Republic of Ireland may gamble remotely with whomever they choose without fear of repercussions. We would always urge caution when selecting an operator to play with. A high-quality license is non-negotiable if customers are to receive genuine and honest service – more information on licensors and the standards they hold their licensees to can be found on our regulators page. Beyond this we would recommend that customers make use of our resources that help guide them through the labyrinth of rogue and substandard operators to the premium and most trustworthy operators in the market today. You can find our guide here - How to Choose and Online Casino. If this all sounds like too much hard work, then players can always make use of our best casinos list which details only the very best casinos available to players at the current time. These operators are tried and trusted and are happy to engage in dialogue about complaints logged by our users. As always, in the unlikely event that you do experience issues when playing with one of our top-rate operators, we are happy to help out if you log a complaint.You can find guidance on submitting a complaint here - How to Complain About an Online Casino at ThePOGG.com.

Frequently Asked Questions Gambling Legality Ireland

Is it legal to take part in online gambling in Ireland?

Until the Gambling Bill 2003 is finally passed the law remains as it has been since the inception of online gambling – remote gambling with oversees operators is not legally prohibited in the Republic of Ireland. Residents of the jurisdiction are free to make use of the services offered by any foreign operator. We do recommend carrying out your due diligence so that any operator you do take your custom to is worthy of being trusted with your hard-earned money.

What age do I have to be to gamble legally in Ireland?

In the Republic of Ireland if you are 16 years of age you are able to take part in betting activities such as playing slots machines or sports betting as long as they are being hosted by a carnival, funfair or amusement arcade. To enter into other gambling activities and to enter a casino establishment a person must be 18 or older to take part lawfully. If the Gambling Bill 2003 is ever passed it will raise the legal age for gambling to 18 years of age for all gambling activities.

Can I be fined for taking part in gambling activities in Ireland?

At the moment all forms of gambling, online and land-based are legal and so there is no criminalisation of those wishing to take part in such activities and there are no fines levied at those who wish to do so.

How is gambling regulated in Ireland?

At the moment there is no official licensing or regulation process in place in the Republic of Ireland, but should the Gambling Bill 2003 get passed, as there are indications will happen in late 2021, this will be changing. It has been mooted that the Department of Justice and Equality will appoint a regulator – likely to be referred to as the Office for Gambling Control Ireland or the OGCI for short, to enact the items in the Bill on their behalf. Remote operators will only be permitted to accept Irish customers if they possess the requisite licenses – at this stage it appears 4 separate licenses will be required in order to legally offer casino and betting services to residents of the Republic of Ireland ( 1E, 1F, 2O and 2P) but until the Bill passes we cannot be sure that this won’t change. It is best to keep yourself updated as to the progress the Bill is making. The last time it was addressed in parliament was in April of 2021 and the statement suggested that significant progress towards full licensing and regulation would be imminent.

Online Gambling Legality in Other Areas of the World

If you are interested in learning more about the legality of online gambling in other areas of the world, check out our articles on the legality of online gambling in Canada and in New Zealand. It is interesting to note the huge variance in approaches to gambling licensing and regulation taken by different jurisdictions and the different values these systems have for players.

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United Kingdom country flag

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland sits to the north-west of mainland Europe. The United Kingdom shares a border with The Republic of Ireland and has coasts on the Atlantic Ocean, Celtic Sea, North Sea, Irish Sea and English Channel. The population of the UK is approaching the 67.6 million mark leading to a fairly densely populated land mass. The gambling sector in the United Kingdom is entirely regulated and licensed by the UKGC – the United Kingdom Gambling Commission. Should players resident In the UK wish to gamble with foreign based operators there is no history of this being treated as a criminal offence, but high levels of protection exist for UK residents playing with UK licensed operators.