Ireland: The International Comparative Legal Guide To: Gambling 2017

Last Updated: 13 December 2016
Article by Rob Corbet and Chris Bollard
Most Read Contributor in Ireland, October 2018

1 Relevant Authorities and Legislation

Which entities regulate what type of gambling activity your jurisdiction

The Revenue Commissioners (which is the Irish tax authority) award licences to bookmakers (both online and offline) and remote betting intermediaries. They also police the provision of such services to the public in the absence of a licence. They are also charged with collecting betting taxes.

In order to obtain a bookmakers or betting intermediary licence, the applicant (or the relevant officers of the applicant where the applicant is a company) must first obtain certificates of personal fitness. The Department of Justice and Equality is charged with awarding certificates of personal fitness to overseas applicants. Applicants who are based in Ireland may apply for a certificate of personal fitness from a Superintendent of An Garda Síochána (the national police force).

Small lotteries (which must be carried out for a charitable purpose) may be carried out under a permit granted by a Superintendent of An Garda Síochána or a licence granted by a District Court.

The licensing of "Amusement Halls and Funfairs" may be determined by a local authority or local District Court. Certain very limited (and low-stakes) gaming may take place in these venues with the appropriate licence.

The Revenue Commissioners also licenses low stakes "Gaming Machines".

The National Lottery is regulated by the Office of the Regulator of the National Lottery.

1.2 Specify all legislation which impacts upon any gambling activity (including skill, prize competitions and draws, fantasy, egaming and social games), and specify in broad ts or prohibits those activities.

Gaming (such as casino games) and lotteries (with the exception of the National Lottery) are regulated (and, broadly speaking, prohibited) by the Gaming and Lotteries Acts 1956 to 2013.

A prohibition on slot machines originally contained in the 1956 Act (section 10) was repealed in 1970. Section 43 of the Finance Act 1975 (as amended) provides that a person who makes a gaming machine available for play must have a gaming machine licence for each gaming machine. Slot and gaming machines fall within the 1956 Act as gaming machines.

Section 120 of the Finance Act 1992 defines an amusement machine as "[a] machine which (a) is constructed or adapted for play of a game, and (b) the player pays to play the machine, and (c) the outcome of the game is determined by the action of the machine, and (d) when played successfully, affords the player an opportunity to play again without paying".

Pursuant to Sections 120–129 of the Finance Act 1992, every amusement machine made available for play must be licensed and there must be a permit for the public place concerned. Sections 84 and 85 of the Finance Act 2002 provide that excise duty must be paid on the issue and renewal of a permit and the applicant must produce a tax clearance certificate.

The business of bookmaking (including remote bookmakers and betting intermediaries) is permitted where a licence has been issued under the Betting Act 1931 (as amended).

The operation of the National Lottery is regulated by the National Lottery Act 2013.

The operation of tote ("pari-mutuel") betting is governed by the Totalisator Act, 1929.

2. Application for a Licence and Licence Restrictions

2.1 an apply for a licence to supply gambling acilities?

The 20-year licence to operate the National Lottery is granted to one operator (currently, Premier Lotteries Ireland Limited).

Any individual or company may apply for a betting licence, remote betting licence or remote betting intermediaries licence. There is no cap on the number of licences which may be granted, though the licences are issued at the discretion of the Revenue Commissioners. Where the applicant is a company, the "relevant officers" of that company will make the application on behalf of the company. They will also be required to obtain appropriate certificates of personal fitness and tax clearance certificates in order to make the licence application. There is no restriction in relation to the location of applicants for remote betting and remote betting intermediary licences.

Licences for small lotteries carried out primarily for charitable purposes may be awarded by the District Court to individuals. In practice, the individuals normally apply for and on behalf of a charitable organisation.

Licences to set up, maintain and operate totalisators are granted under the Totalisator Act 1929. Tote Ireland Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of the state body Horse Racing Ireland, currently operates a totalisator, under licence, at racecourses nationwide. Bord na gCon (the national greyhound board) is licensed to operate a totalisator at greyhound tracks.

2.2 Who or what entity must apply for a licence or authorisations and which entities or persons, apart from an operator, need to hold a licence? Are personal and premises licence o key suppliers need authorisation?

Bookmakers operating from a "bricks and mortar" shop must also obtain a certificate of registration of premises.

Presently, there is no need for "key suppliers" (including suppliers of software) to obtain a licence or other authorisation.

2.3 What restrictions are placed upon any licensee?

The licence restrictions depend on the nature of the licence in question.

The operator of the National Lottery will be subject to the licence terms which they have agreed with the government. These licence terms may be viewed on the website of the Regulator of the National Lottery. The licence contains (among other things) player protection mechanisms and provisions governing unclaimed prizes as well as the establishment of the National Lottery Fund.

Bookmakers and remote betting intermediary licences may be revoked by the District Court (on the application of the Minister for Justice and Equality) in certain circumstances set out in section 16 of the Betting Act 1931 (as amended), primarily where the licence holder or relevant officers of the licence holder have their certificates of personal fitness revoked. The opening hours of bookmaker's shops are governed by statute. Bookmaker's shops may not offer any goods or services aside from bookmaking services (with certain, very limited exceptions, such as the sale of newspapers, non-alcoholic drinks, confectionary or fruit). There are other restrictions on the operation of bookmaker's shops in the Betting Act 1931 – for example, the licence holder may not permit overcrowding or loitering in the shops.

Licensed bookmakers may not accept bets of an amount less than €0.06. There is a total prohibition on making a bet or engaging in a betting transaction with a person under the age of 18 years.

2.4 of applying for any gambling licence or regulatory approval?

Remote Bookmakers/Remote Betting Intermediaries

The process for applying for a remote bookmaker licence or a remote betting intermediary licence is almost identical.

First, the applicant must place an advertisement in two national newspapers. At least 14 days later, applications for certificates of personal fitness must be made by at least two relevant officers of the applicant. Within 21 days of the certificates of personal fitness issuing, the applicant must submit its licence application. In parallel to this process, the applicant will be required to apply for a tax number from the Revenue Commissioners, obtain a tax clearance certificate and register with the Revenue Online Service for the payment of betting duties.

Lottery Licences

Small lottery licences can be issued by the District Court subject to a prior application and oral hearing.

Casinos/Private Members Clubs

The scope of the Gaming and Lotteries Act, 1956 excludes private arrangements, and this has given rise to the operation of private members' clubs as casinos/card clubs, which the operators argue fall entirely outside the gaming licensing regime. Aside from the requirement to become a member, a process that is not standardised, the opening hours, age restrictions and general operation of such clubs are not regulated. Private members' clubs are liable for VAT and must register with the relevant authority under anti-money laundering legislation.

Amusement Halls

In order to be fully licensed, an amusement hall owner that operates both amusement machines and gaming machines should: operate in a local authority area where a resolution under Section 13 of the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 has been passed; restrict players of gaming machines to those aged 16 and over; locate amusement machines and gaming machines in physically separate areas; refrain from selling alcohol; and hold the following licences: Amusement Machine Permit; Amusement Machine Licence for each amusement machine; Gaming Licence; and Gaming Machine Licence for each gaming machine.

2.5 cable time limits and potential for expiry, review revocation and nullification .

See question 2.4 for the licence application timetable.

Licences for bookmakers, remote intermediaries and licensed bookmaker's premises will be issued for up to 24 months ending on 30 November the following year (for bookmakers) or 30 June (remote bookmakers and remote intermediaries). Annual renewal fees are calculated on the turnover of the bookmaker/intermediary.

2.6 By product, what are the key limits on providing services to customers? Please include in this answer the material promotion and advertising restrictions.

Retail Bookmakers: Section 20(1) of the 1931 Act prohibits a retail bookmaker from setting up or maintaining in or outside his shop "any attraction (other than the mere carrying on of his business of bookmaking) which causes or encourages or is likely to cause or encourage persons to congregate in or outside such premises". Section 20(3) contains a prohibition on a bookmaker from "proclaim[ing] or announc[ing] or permit[ting] any other person to proclaim or announce in such premises to the persons there present the terms or odds on or at which he is willing to take bets in relation to any particular race, match, or other contest, or in respect of any competitor in any such contest". Section 20(4) prohibits a retail bookmaker from exhibiting (or permitting to be exhibited) in or outside his shop (or which is visible from the street) "any lists or statements of the terms or odds on or at which he is willing to take bets in relation to any particular race, match, or other contest, or in respect of any competitor in any such contest, or lists or statements of the competitors entered for or withdrawn from or taking or likely to take part in any such contest, or statements of facts, news, or forecasts in respect of any such contest, or any other incitement or inducement to bet".

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This article contains a general summary of developments and is not a complete or definitive statement of the law. Specific legal advice should be obtained where appropriate.

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