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Gambling Sector

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 10 November 2020

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Questions (606)

Richard Bruton


606. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Justice if a clear distinction is drawn between online games and online gambling; the basis on which the distinction is drawn; and her views as to whether there is a concern that some games are developing the features of gambling. [34839/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Programme for Government commits to establishing a gambling regulator focused on public safety and wellbeing, covering gambling online and in person, and the powers to regulate advertising, gambling websites and apps.

The only current legislation providing for online gambling is contained in the Betting (Amendment) Act 2015 which permits the licencing by the Revenue Commissioners of remote bookmakers and betting exchanges. The role of my Department is limited to the processing of certificates of fitness for applicants for such licences.

There is no current legislation with regard to online video gaming engaged in by individuals. However, I am aware that there has been some attention on issues arising in the context of video gaming. In particular, whether in-game purchases or micro-transactions, described as "loot boxes", "skins" etc., designed to improve the players’ chances of success in inter-active online games, might encourage gambling like behaviour.

I am also aware that there are activities with regard to online game play that may involve third party non-regulated actors which are not authorised by the game developer or under their control.

The issue is whether such micro-transactions constitute gambling or are a form of e-commerce. It is not clear that these offers fall within the current Irish legal definition of gambling or that purchases are essentially an e-commerce activity.

Different approaches have been adopted to the issue of whether and how "loot boxes" might be defined and regulated in the context of gambling activities in Europe, with no definitive outcomes.

This matter is one which my Department and ultimately the new Gambling Regulator will keep under review.