Attitudes to gambling have been changing rapidly across the world over the past few years. While some countries, like the US and Canada, have been relaxing their laws, others, like the UK and Ireland, have been taking steps to introduce tighter regulations to the industry among a wave of problem gambling.
What Have We Seen This Year?
At the start of February, a new report was issued by the Irish Health Research Board. The report found that there are currently around 12,000 citizens undergoing treatment for problem gambling. In addition to this, there were around 35,000 gamblers considered at moderate risk. The report also found a correlation between substance abuse and problem gambling; 13% of people with an alcohol use disorder were also classified as a problem or at-risk gambler, compared to just 2% of low-risk drinkers.
Compared to the UK, Ireland’s gambling figures are slightly lower but it could be a sign of things to come which has prompted the Irish government to take action now. However, there have been some issues with gambling companies complying with the new laws as they try to push back.
Changes to Irish Gambling Legislation
The Irish government implemented a ban on credit cards being used for deposits in late 2021, similar to what the UK had introduced a year earlier. The ban stops consumers from being able to use a credit card to deposit funds into an account, with the aim being that it will reduce gambling-related debt. Flutter, Ireland’s largest bookmakers, took the initiative to voluntarily ban credit cards at around the same time as the UK ban came into law. However, many companies have still not adhered to the new law.
In January the news broke that while bookmakers had removed the ability to deposit with a credit card directly on their website, using a credit card to gamble was still possible if the player used a third party to deposit funds. The report found that gamblers were still maxing out credit cards to enable them to gamble, by simply using Apple Pay, Google Pay or Revolut.
Are Gambling Companies on Board?
The Irish Independent named and shamed firms like Paddy Power and Boyle Sports who had allowed credit card bets to continue. The firms denied they had done anything wrong, having banned the use of credit cards directly on their websites. They responded by saying that they had done nothing wrong and were unable to see what payment method was used if a third party was involved. According to the Irish Bookmakers Association, they were correct that the companies had done nothing wrong – but it’s an embarrassingly big loophole. There are many gambling sites in Ireland and also many that operate within Ireland even if they are not based there, so it can be hard to get everyone on board with carrying out gambling laws. If companies are keen to work through loopholes then gambling legislation will need to be put in place to be as strict as possible, to ensure that these loopholes simply do not exist. Of course, in an ideal world gambling operators would take notice and do what they can to support these rules rather than allow customers to get around them. Legislation is meant to apply to all gambling sites in Ireland and if companies continue to offer customers ways to get around things then it is likely that legislation is likely to get stricter to force them to do so – and we are likely to see gambling legislation come more in line with what the UK does.
What’s Happening With Gambling in the UK?
The UK law on gambling with credit cards is much more robust by comparison. Gambling with a credit card (or allowing a player to use a credit card for deposits) is illegal by any method. In addition to the law banning the use of credit cards directly on bookmaking websites, the law also states that it is illegal to use or allow the use of, credit cards to deposit through third-party systems such as Apple Pay, Google Pat or Revolut. The exact loophole that Irish bookmakers are using to get away with ignoring the law has been sewn up by the UK government, and many Irish citizens are calling for the same regulations to be implemented.
Since the exposé was published Revolut have announced that they will take matters into their own hands, blocking all credit card payments that are destined for gambling websites. While the impact of this will be felt, given that Revolut has 1.5 million Irish users, it’s as good as useless while Apple Pay and Google Pay haven’t taken the same initiative.
What Does The Future of Irish Gambling Legislation Look Like?
At the point of law, using a third party payment system to deposit money with a credit card is not illegal in Ireland, unlike the UK who have included this. There is hope that as a new regulator has been set up this loophole will be sewn up very soon. The Irish regulator will be given authority over payments, giving them the option to ban third party payment solutions but critics have argued that it’s likely the regulator will simply mark the issue of credit card payments as done without looking into the issues that the vague regulations have created.
Although it is impossible to say for sure what Irish gambling legislation looks like, it is certainly more relaxed than the UK currently and most agree that this is something that will change in the future. Not only is it likely that gambling laws will come more into line with what the UK has, but it is likely that gambling operators will have to do more in order to make sure that they operate within the line of these laws too. There is quite a relaxed view to Irish gambling legislation compared to the UK and as such, this is an attitude that the Irish government will be keen to change.