Losing punters up against a €1bn 'gambling superpower', says Limerick deputy

Niall Collins calling for major overhaul of the gambling industry

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

Losing punters up against a €1bn 'gambling superpower', says Limerick deputy

Regulator needed: Deputy Niall Collins

GAMBLERS are up against a new €1 billion “gambling superpower” and are facing increasingly sophisticated and aggressive forms of marketing, with new legislation needed as a matter of urgency to govern the industry.

Fianna Fail deputy Niall Collins is among those to call for a major overhaul of the gambling industry in Ireland, which is largely regulated by legislation dating back to 1931.

Deputy Collins said there is a “glaring need” for a Gambling Regulator and Gambling Authority “to oversee all the strands to the industry.”

“Not only does the industry have a hugely negative effect on some families, but there is also a big loss to the Exchequer in terms of uncollected taxes. It needs detailed attention to modernise the legislation, which is nearly 100 years outdated in some instances,” he said.

The heads or initial outline of the Gambling Control Bill were published in July 2013, but have yet to go through the Dáil or Seanad.

The Bill aims to comprehensively address terrestrial and online gambling, which has mushroomed with the development of technology that existing legislation cannot cope with.

“It’s an area that the Government needs to look at as a matter of urgency. There was a cross-over with the Bill between the Department of Justice and Department of Finance, but if it was under the aegis of one department it would have been a lot simpler,” said deputy Collins.

Following the amalgamation of bookmaker Paddy Power with Betfair, the new PLC has created a self-described “gambling superpower”, posting a net revenue of over €1 billion for the first time in 2015.

The latest financial accounts highlighted a 24% increase in net revenue, a 23% increase in bets taken, and operating profits of €180m.

The merger of Paddy Power Betfair on February 2, 2016, resulted in its “best year ever”.

The company recorded double digit growth across all online and retail divisions, including eGaming growth of 10%.

“It is hard to believe that a billion euro industry has so little governance,” said Mr Collins.  

The deputy said that the online market has exploded in recent years, with users able to bet on every sport imaginable with the click of a button on their smartphone.

The alcohol industry has seen increased regulation in terms of advertising and similar rules needs to be enforced on the gambling industry, he said.

“Gambling addiction is on the rise and has the power to destroy people’s and their families’ lives if it gets hold of them,” said Mr Collins.

- See the weekend editions of the Limerick Leader for a two page news feature on addiction in Limerick