James Lawless: New Gambling Bill will aim to stop problem gambling at source
Published on: 20 May 2022
Fianna Fáil TD for Kildare North and Chairperson of the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, James Lawless has stated that the committee’s scrutiny of the General Scheme of the Gambling Regulation Bill makes a series of key recommendations to ensure the bill ultimately helps stop problem gambling at source.
Chair, Deputy James Lawless, commented, “We conducted a very thorough scrutiny of the bill and heard evidence from multiple witnesses and stakeholders across two oral hearings of the committee. We engaged first with the industry and then with those concerned as to its ill effects, including addiction counsellors, support services and health organisations.
“We have reflected those broad range of views within our report but I think it’s quite hard hitting and puts it up to the gambling industry. I fully understand that many people enjoy a bet, and not least in my own county of Kildare with the equine industry strong and many enjoying a day out at the races. But like many things it’s all about moderation and these measures will help differentiate the problem user from the occasional flutter, and steer interventions and more importantly regulation at source so as to stop problem gambling.”
The Kildare North TD continued: “‘What gets measured, gets managed’ and at the moment it’s something of a black art. Witnesses from the big firms told the committee they collect up to 200 data points on an individual during their online sessions. Whilst the websites say that data is used to predict and avoid problem gambling, it is not too hard to envisage scenarios where it could be used to drive on behaviours also. We have already seen this go wrong on social media and elsewhere, with user profiling and big data scandals like Cambridge Analytica.”
Deputy Lawless noted in conclusion that the Justice Committee which he chairs had now processed 33 separate pieces of legislation in the lifetime of this Dáil, including 18 Government Bills completing pre-legislative scrutiny, 10 Government bills passing committee stage and 5 Private Members Bills. He thanked the members of his committee for their diligence and said 50% of the entire government legislative program to date had been processed through his committee.
Among the report’s recommendations are:
That the new gambling regulator, to be appointed under the bill, immediately sets out to gather data on the market and user base
That online and retail gambling be treated with same approach and being extra cognisant that online sites can profile user behaviours
That gambling advertising be banned pre “watershed” and between “whistle to whistle” during sports events
That better verification be used to check the ages of users placing bets online, or in shops
That DNS networking tools be utilised to prevent offshore, unregulated websites from poaching into Irish market
That when local councils are administering licences for betting shops, they consider the profile of the area and avoid over populating gambling centres within more deprived neighbourhoods
Similarly, the behaviour, including gambling activity, of licensed premises should be considered when renewing their annual licence