Gambling Control Bill 2018: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to establish a framework for the regulation, including licensing, of gambling in Ireland and to provide for related matters.

I wish to share time with Deputy Jack Chambers.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for giving me the opportunity to introduce the Gambling Control Bill 2018. I am very grateful also to the Bills Office, which has worked with us on the legislation, and to our own researcher, Mr. Kevin Dillon. The Bill is sponsored by Deputies Jack Chambers, Jim O'Callaghan and me.

Fianna Fáil is committed to socially responsible gambling. As such, the Bill has a double objective to regulate the expanding gambling sector which has emerged in recent years and to protect vulnerable adults and young people. The legislation updates the general scheme of a Bill published by the Government in 2013 but never moved. We need effective gambling regulation to provide those who work in the industry with certainty on socially responsible gambling. We are committed to working with the industry to build a new framework but the time for delay has long since passed. The regulation we outline in the Bill recognises that gambling remains an extremely weakly regulated sector. I am looking here at legislation dating back to 1956. The Bill seeks to establish an office of gambling control which new agency will be self-financing through the industry. The flexible powers sought to be provided to the new agency are key elements of the Bill and will enable the State to move quickly with technological developments and ensure regulation does not lag behind.

One of my first questions on promised legislation was on the status of the general scheme of the gambling control Bill of 2013. According to the then Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, the issue was the technological complexity of the industry. Unfortunately, in the 18 months since the question was asked on the floor of the House, the Government has not moved forward with its legislation. It is therefore incumbent on the Opposition to give this matter priority. Many families and communities have been devastated by the effects of gambling.

It is an underlying issue, particularly when it comes to people's health. In that context, I see that the Minister of State with responsibility for mental health is present. It is having a huge effect on everybody.

It is time to deal with this matter. I ask the Government to support us in the context of progressing the Bill. It should not leave us waiting for days or months on end, trying to get Private Members' time in order to bring the Bill to the House. I hope the Government will work with us. We are taking up the mantle. The original legislation has been left languishing for five years and I am asking the Government for its support.

Like Deputy Rabbitte, I thank Kevin Dillon of the Fianna Fáil research office and also the Bills Office for working with us on this. The current legislative framework on gambling is archaic, outdated and irrelevant. It is underpinned by the Betting Act 1931 and the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956, which were introduced when there was no technology and barely any electricity. What we are trying to do is establish an office of gambling control within the Department of Justice and Equality, a new, modernised licensing regime that would address the complexity of gambling and a regulatory framework in respect of advertising restrictions. We want to break the link between sports and gambling. We want monitoring and enforcement of existing rules and to expand those rules.

Another issue is that gambling addiction is reaching epidemic proportions. Ireland has one of the worst statistics in Europe in terms of the level of gambling issues and addiction - we are third highest in the world in this regard - and this is against the backdrop of a legislative framework that is completely irrelevant and archaic. In this attempt to modernise our laws and introduce a regulatory framework, there will be flexibility for Government amendments to be introduced to reflect the complexity of the issue. We need to have a social gambling fund that reflects the turnover of the gambling industry so that it pays back in the context of people who have suffered the consequences of gambling, in particular those who are problem gamblers.

We all need to look at the statistics from the Rutland Centre. These show that there has been a threefold increase - up from 3% three years ago to 9% last year - in the number of people presenting with addictions relating to gambling. It is important that we have the legislative and regulatory framework to address this.

Deputies O'Callaghan, Rabbitte and I will be trying to progress this legislation through Second Stage. We hope that we have the support of the Government and we would like to see the Bill prioritised at the justice committee, of which I am a member. The legislation introduced by the former Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter was very proactive in nature. Unfortunately, his successor did not prioritise it but we would like to see this introduced. I believe it is in everyone's interests for gambling to be regulated in order that we can turn the tide in respect of many of the issues people face, including the effect on their health. I hope we will receive the support of Government.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.