The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have created a ‘perfect storm of people with betting problems’, according to Senator Alice-Mary Higgins of the Irish Seanad Éireann.
Speaking at a Senate debate regarding Irish gambling regulations, Senator Higgins discussed the financial gains made by the betting and gaming industries in Ireland over the past year.
“Financially, it has been a good year for the gambling industry. Flutter, which owns Paddy Power, Betfair and others, has seen an increase in its earnings of €1.4 billion, representing a 23% increase in its overall earnings,” the Senator remarked.
“The company that owns Ladbrokes has seen a 25% increase from its online operations. While the betting shops may be down on revenue, let us be clear that the gambling industry has treated this year as a bonanza of access online.
“In 2020, where profits increased so substantially, we saw the Government give a €50,000 relief to bookmakers from their paltry 2% betting duty. For context, that betting levy has gone down from 10% in 1999.”
Addressing the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Deputy James Browne, Senator Higgins argued that the decision to appoint a gambling regulator should not be postponed until 2023, due to the ‘perfect storm’ for those suffering from problem gambling created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, Senator Higgins discussed the absence of online regulation of gambling advertising, stating: “Lack of regulation means we are getting all-hours and all-locations advertising, which is a concern.
“We know we can take action to address this, as we did when we placed constraints in legislation on the advertising and sale of alcohol.”
Before taking questions from Senator Higgins and other political figures, Deputy Browne addressed the legislature to detail the Department of Justice’s plans to ‘establish an independent gambling regulator for Ireland focused on public safety and well-being’.
This new regulator, he argued, is needed as Ireland’s current regulatory approach is ‘fragmented’ as a result of being spread widely across a range of different departments and agencies.
Once established, the country’s new regulator will ‘assume all of the current gambling licensing and regulatory responsibilities as well as new and more extensive enforcement duties’.