I propose to take Questions Nos. 662 to 665, inclusive, together.
The Gambling Control Bill, (the General Scheme of which is available on my Department's website) makes provision for the licensing of "moderate" sized casinos in Ireland for the first time. The legislation will, when enacted, establish a single licensing authority for gambling, namely the Minister for Justice and Equality.
Head 4 of the General Scheme sets out the primary purposes to be served by the new Bill. Among them is the need to ensure gambling is not used by or for criminal purposes, and also to ensure the protection of children and other vulnerable persons. Under the terms of the proposed legislation, no persons under the age of 18 years will be allowed to engage in any form of gambling activity.
There will be terms and conditions attaching to each licence, designed to protect consumers and to prevent criminal activity. With specific regard to casino licences, the regulator may make it a condition of a licence that each person attending a casino be obliged to enter personal details in a database to be maintained by the licensee. Such persons may also be obliged to produce verification of identity before being granted admission to a casino premises.
While there is currently no provision in Irish law for the licensing of casinos, there are currently 40 private member gaming clubs registered with my Department under the provisions of Section 109 of the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010 as amended. My Department's anti-money laundering compliance unit conducts inspections of these premises to assess compliance with the 2010 Act.
In accordance with Head 32 of the General Scheme, each applicant for a licence must declare any criminal convictions either in the State or elsewhere. Failure to disclose a conviction may lead to an application being refused. It may also result in the withdrawal of a licence issued to an applicant whose failure to disclose is established only after the licence has been granted. There will be provision for the Minister to specify certain offences that, due to their relevance and nature, must be declared in all cases where applications are being submitted. Heads 32(4) and 34(3) set criteria for the evaluation of convictions.
While I am aware that some assessments of this sector have been carried out, the fact that the sector is currently unlicensed means that the State is not in a position to make an accurate assessment of its value to the economy.
I am committed to publishing the Bill in early 2015 and believe the proposals contained therein will serve the public interest and will contribute to the protection of consumers.