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Luck of the Irish

Alan Shatter TD Minister for Justice, Equality and Defense, Ireland

Luck of the Irish

As Ireland works to revamp antiquated laws on gaming and betting, the person overseeing those efforts is Minister for Justice, Equality and Defense Alan Shatter of the Fine Gael party. The work tenuously begun by the Department of Justice and Equality under the previous government, which was replaced by a Fine Gael-Labor coalition following elections in February 2011, appears to have been taken on seriously by Shatter.

In September, Shatter announced that the government had agreed to his proposal to begin working immediately on new gaming and betting legislation. Existing laws covering the activities date from 1931 for horse racing and sports betting and from 1956 for casino gaming. The new legislation is intended to address both sectors as well as online gaming, all under the collective term “gambling.”

In the September announcement, Shatter presented a down-to-earth, business-friendly approach to the task.

“The series of decisions taken by the government will bring clarity and certainty,” Shatter says. “This will assist anyone planning to locate business here. They can be assured they will be operating within a comprehensive, modern regime.”

At the same time, Shatter emphasizes the need for legislation to be responsible socially, saying, “More importantly, the new system has protection of the vulnerable as its primary objective. It will also give customers greater entitlements within a well-defined system, and in that and many other ways, it will serve the public interest.”

The 60-year-old Shatter is described by the Ministry of Justice and Equality website as “an advocate of radical legal, social and environmental reform.” A lawyer by trade, he specialized in family law and has written several books, including a novel, with reform of such legislation as their focus. As a deputy in the Dail—a representative in Ireland’s Lower House of Parliament—Shatter has been heavily involved in getting reform legislation dealing with family law passed.

On the anticipated gambling legislation, Shatter’s September statement dashed hopes for those who sought to bring large-scale casino resort properties to Ireland. Instead, the government decided “only casinos of modest size” were desirable. Although the government recognized the employment benefits accompanying the creation and development of a casino resort industry, it was thought they would attract negative activities that put vulnerable people at risk.

The new legislation will create a unified enforcement structure across all gambling sectors. Licensing and inspection will be under the minister for justice, equality and defense.

Shatter expects to present a full draft of the legislation to the government in spring 2012.