The Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill 2019 has now passed all stages in the Houses of the Oireachtas.
An association of private members clubs (PMCs) made a number of representations to me in the course of the final development of the Bill. I also met a representative of the association, at their request, to hear their concerns at first hand.
Essentially, the nature of the representations concerned a number of proposed amendments to the Bill to include a definition of private members clubs and, on foot of such definition, explicitly to exclude them from the scope of the Bill.
Alternatively, provision for the licensing of such clubs was sought pending the major reform of gambling legislation planned by the Government. However, I was concerned that acceding to such a request at this point could be deemed to be licensing of PMCs as casinos, without having the necessary regulation in place.
Legislation in my Department is prepared with the assistance of the Office of the Attorney General. Having regard to that, I am assured that the 2019 Bill maintained the status quo relating to these clubs pending the intended future reform of gambling legislation, and did not affect their existing position arising from the provisions of the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956. The activities of PMCs are not subject to a particular licensing regime and they are deemed to enjoy protection under the constitutional right of freedom of association. The PMCs are, however, inspected for the purposes of tax compliance and the prevention of money laundering.
I had assured the association concerned on a number of occasions, that it was not my intention to seek to challenge the current status or operations of PMCs.