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Ireland - online gambling regulations

Published by Stelly | May 25, 2022

The beginning of gambling's excitement

Irish folklore is commonplace thanks to the world's love of the lore surrounding its lucky symbols when it comes to online gambling. First and foremost is the four-leaf clover, which is considered a lucky charm in just about every country globally.

Then there is the erstwhile Leprechaun. This charming water spirit is believed to possess a magical pot of gold, often thought to be hidden at the end of a rainbow. The only way to get him to part with his riches is to capture him, at which point he must show you the way to his immeasurable treasures. This story has become a popular trope for online slots and other casino games, especially around Saint Paddy's Day.

Beyond the myth and magic associated with the Emerald Isle and its mythology, the Republic of Ireland homes a populace of around 5 million people and, oddly enough, occupies only a part of the island of Ireland. North Ireland is not considered part of Ireland from a political standpoint as it is part of the United Kingdom and falls under their jurisdiction and follows the UK legal structure, including its online gambling laws.

Online Gambling in Ireland
Online Gambling in Ireland - laws and regulations to keep in mind!

The history and laws of gambling in Ireland

Gambling is a popular pastime in Ireland. There are historical records reaching back as far as 110 BC relating how townsfolk would bet on the chariot races being held at Curragh. This tradition has persisted till today, with Curragh being the home of the Irish National Stud and is considered the centre of Irish horse breeding.

When Ireland was colonised by the British in the 17th century, this love of horseracing and sports betting was encouraged, and by 1751, Ireland was home to over four hundred horse racing tracks and venues, all of which offered legal betting.

Irish folk loved playing card games, a pastime that was not regulated for most of the country's history. During the establishment of Ireland's independence from the United Kingdom in 1922, the country regulated traditional gambling for the first time. This early Betting Act saw the government take control of bookmaking in Ireland, banning illegal operators and implementing a strict taxation policy.

In 1956 the Irish Gaming and Lotteries Act came into force which made casino gambling illegal in the region. The Act contains specific statements about the legality of slot machines, gambling at carnivals and other land-based wagering restrictions.

With the Irish love of gambling, it did not take long for them to uncover a loophole in the Act. Gambling in public venues was illegal; however, private member clubs were allowed to offer casino games as entertainment to their visitors. This caveat gave rise to several longstanding private gaming establishments in Ireland which offer players games such as blackjack, roulette, poker, and the country's national game, Spoil Five.

With the advent of online gambling, Irish gamblers found a way to enjoy their favourite hobby from the comfort of their homes, allowing them to bypass a lot of the restrictions placed on landlocked venues. Recent independent studies estimated that Irish punters stake around €8 billion annually, with the lion's share of these wagers taking place online.

This burgeoning online gambling market led to the Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Act 2019, which came into force in December 2020. The amended Gaming Act moved gambling from a government-held monopoly to a free market system where local and international operators could apply for an online gambling license.

The one caveat to this licensing process is the licensing of online lottery operators. The only legal lottery is the Irish National Lottery, for which the government hosts a tender process and then selects a single licensee to run the operation for several years.

Gambling Policies in Ireland

Under the Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Act 2019, Irish gambles can play various casino games at websites that hold an Irish license or a license from the UK Gambling Commission.

However, it is understood by legal experts that Ireland's Gaming Act is in dire need of modernisation as it officially still places casino games, specifically slots and bingo, under the purview of the Gaming and Lotteries Act.

This Act does not sufficiently address the advent of the internet, mobile gambling, and other modern forms of online entertainment as its language speaks to "gaming carried out in amusement halls, arcades, funfairs, carnivals, travelling circuses and slot machines".

This outdated language is a concern for players and operators as, despite the language of the license they acquire, the current Gaming and Lotteries Act makes it illegal to advertise or promote any "unlawful" gambling games or activities.

There is a move to establish a comprehensive Gambling Bill that will align these contradictory stances on gambling in the country and define a single unified vision for online and land-based gambling.

The Department of Justice outlines its efforts in this regard in the Department's Statement of Strategy 2021-2023. This strategy clarifies the need for an independent Gambling Regulator, public safety and wellbeing policies, policies for gambling online and in person, and a stratagem for regulating advertising, gambling websites and casino apps so that responsible gambling is always on focus.

Are gambling winnings taxable in Ireland?

Before gambling in Ireland, it is crucial to consider the taxation implications. Are you guaranteed to receive your winnings? If you do, are you liable for taxes? If so, at what level will you be taxed?

The good news for Irish gamblers is that the government does not consider any winnings from sports betting, online casino games, or bingo taxable. The main taxation segments in Ireland are capital gains tax (CGT) and income tax. Since the government does not categorise winnings for gambling as either of these, there is no tax due, regardless of the size of your windfall.

This tax exclusion also applies to any winning from the National Lottery or an online lottery like the EuroMillions. However, it is advisable to speak to a financial advisor when it comes to investing your winnings, as any gains derived from them will trigger either capital gains tax or income tax, depending on how you invested it.

You might be asking what has become of the "1% tax on wagers"? This tax used to be levied on winnings; however, this has been shifted over to the gambling provider and is recouped from their gross margin. The Irish government has ensured its residents do not need to concern themselves with gambling taxes. Instead, they can enjoy their good fortune.

It is worth noting that gambling debt is not enforceable under the current gambling legislation. This law means that you cannot take an operator to court in Ireland to claim unpaid winnings. For this reason, we recommend only playing at licensed casinos as your claim to winnings is enforceable under their licensing agreement. Unlicensed venues do not offer this protection.

Is online gambling legal in Ireland?

It would be very easy to become confused when it comes to the finer details of online gambling in Ireland. According to the letter of the law, playing slots and promoting online casino games falls foul of the Gaming and Lotteries Act.

The government of Ireland has stated that it is legal for its residents to gamble at online casinos so long as they hold an Irish online betting license or any form of gambling license from the UK Gambling Commission.

The Department of Justice is also working on creating a modernised Gambling Bill that will expressly legalise playing and promoting online games of chance by 2023.

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