The Irish government agency responsible for taxation, excise, customs and other related matters, Ireland Revenue, has initiated a crackdown on illegal gambling in Dublin after a report by the UK newspaper The Times revealed that many arcades in Dublin have been using their licenses to illegally operate casino style gambling machines.
Ireland’s Revenue handed out enforcement letters to establishments who have used their arcade licenses to deploy gambling machines. The enforcement letters give the served establishments 21 days to remove the machines from their place of business or seizure of such machines and possibly the risk losing their licenses to operate arcades.
Contentious citywide ban
In 1988 the city of Dublin issued a citywide ban on casino style gambling machines operating within city limits, meaning that no licenses can be issued for gambling machines used within the city limits. The Times report, however, exposed the fact that a significant number of establishments inside Dublin were using their arcade licenses to provide casino style gambling machines in violation of the ban.
Ireland Revenue has defined arcade games as amusement machines that offer players the chance to win or continue playing for non-monetary prizes which cannot exceed €7 in total value. The investigation by The Times discovered that arcades across the city were regularly offering customers the opportunity to play for up to €2,500. The casino style games included video poker, blackjack and roulette and are in clear violation of the citywide ordinance banning such machines within Dublin’s city limits.
The Irish gaming industry fights back
The Irish gambling industry, however, did not take the news of Ireland Revenue’s crackdown sitting down. The Irish Amusement Trades Association (IATA), an industry organization that represents the interests of licensed and unlicensed arcades across the country, was swift to issue a statement condemning the crackdown. The industry has long lobbied for the citywide ban to be rescinded and that Dublin, like other Irish cities, should be allowed to offer players normal casino style games.
John Roche, general secretary of IATA has been notably vocal in calling for a complete reform of Ireland’s gaming laws, which he considers both archaic and in violation of European Union directives pertaining to the provision of gaming services.
While supporting a modern and thriving high tech economy, the largely Roman Catholic Ireland last visited its gambling legislation in 1956 with the passage of the Gaming and Lotteries Act and times have clearly long since changed.
Calls for new gambling legislation
Law makers in Ireland have been fighting for years to agree on new legislation that would update the 1956 Act, but little progress has been made on the issue.
Ireland’s minister of state at the department of Justice and Equality David Stanton told media outlet RTÉ back in January 2018 that the proposed amendments to the gambling law would streamline the chaotic existing system and define a new licensing regime, adding that despite the lack of progress since the Irish government published the draft Gambling Control Bill back in 2013, plans could be enacted by the end of 2018.
While perhaps overly optimistic, Minister Stanton is not without his supporters. Dermont McGirr, a senior associate at the law firm Pinsent Masons, has said the proposed legislation, if moved forward for a vote, would bring vital and significant changes to the existing state of Irish gambling.
“Gaming and lotteries, with the exception of the Irish National Lottery, in Ireland are currently regulated by a disjointed and dated series of legislation: the Gaming and Lotteries Acts 1956 to 2013,” McGirr told media outlet Out-Law.com. “The Scheme intends to bring almost all forms of betting, gaming and lotteries under one legislative programme for the first time and to create a one-stop-shop licensing regime for all forms of gambling.”
The idea is to get Ireland’s gambling laws up to speed with European Union norms by imitating the current legal regime used in the UK.
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