Ireland’s Justice Minister Alan Shatter has published draft legislation that would allow for 40 small casinos around the country with up to 15 gambling tables each, but with no electronic casino-style table games.
Slot machines would be allowed, capped at 25 per venue, under the Gambling Control Bill, which will be submitted for public consultation prior to debate in the Dáil and the Seanad, the lower and upper houses of the national legislature.
“I believe that this bill will give Ireland a well-regulated gambling system that will be recognized as such internationally,” the minister said.
In addition to the ban on fixed-odds betting terminals, as e-tables are known, the 90-page bill provides for the creation of a gambling oversight agency under the Justice Ministry, which will exercise final licensing, regulatory and enforcement authority.
Casinos are prohibited in Ireland, but casino gambling takes place in an estimated 34 licensed private-members clubs by virtue of a loophole in laws dating back to the 1950s. Plans to legalize and expand the market have been discussed for years with no result. In 2011, the government blocked a proposed €460 million super-casino in Tipperary.
Shatter said, “We’ve made very specific decisions in the public interest. Those specific decisions include a decision that we will not be making provision for resort-style casinos.”
The FOBT ban is derived from proximity to the U.K., where the machines are a highly lucrative and highly controversial fixture in betting shops across the nation, viewed by health experts and many community and political leaders as a particularly exploitative and addictive form of gambling.
The new oversight agency also will regulate the country’s online and remote gambling industries, which will be taxed under separate legislation reported to be nearly complete and ready for public review. The Betting Amendment Bill, as it’s called, will extend the current 1 percent levy on bets placed with land-based bookmakers to the online space. The tax is expected raise €15 million-€17 million annually and is being hailed by Ireland’s racing authorities, who are hoping for additional allocations to a state-administered fund created to help support the industry.
The bill must also be approved by the European Commission.