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Kevin Smith

Update: No I-Gaming in Ireland--For Now

28 September 2001

Online gaming operators wanting to get established in Ireland shouldn't be holding their breath in hoping they could soon open up shop in the Emerald Isle.

A report in Thursday's Irish Independent newspaper devoted a large amount of space to looking at ways the industry could help the country’s struggling technology sector.

But a Dublin-based lawyer who was involved in a review of Ireland's 1956 Gaming and Lotteries Act, which resulted in a report released in August 2000, isn't counting on any changes coming soon.

The newspaper erroneously reported that the review was still going on and that gaming-related legislation is under review. The lawyer, who spoke to IGN on the condition that he remain anonymous, said the review is complete and that the government won't be making any drastic changes to gaming law until late spring at the earliest.

"The current government is too conservative to make any changes now," he said. "There are elections in the spring and nothing will get done until there is a new government in control of things."

The attorney went on to say that many of those who took part in the review process later regretted being involved.

"The whole thing was very procedural," he said. "The office let its anti-gaming ethos come through and take control of the whole process. It became clear that they were never intent on going through a real review of the process or making any changes to the laws."

There was enough interest on the review panel to make changes to the current laws and at least a willingness to go public with the idea of bringing online casinos to Ireland, but the idea was quickly shot down.

"We showed them how the laws were written in Australia and how easily they could be adapted to Ireland," the lawyer said. "But there was just to much opposition in the government."

Like many jurisdictions, it seems that Ireland has been selective in which forms of gaming it will accept. The country has a popular lottery, and betting on horse races is a large part of the Irish culture. Bookmakers are commonly found in the cities and even on the corners of small country towns.

"It is kind of funny how open they are to sports betting but so opposed to casino gambling," the lawyer said. "I think a large part of that comes from the shady past associated with the casinos. If there was a group that had clout like the Nevada Gaming Control Board around it may be different."

There is small chance that the current government could have a change of heart and warm up to the idea of online casinos and sports books operating out of Ireland. The Isle of Man's recent entrance into the market makes it hard for Ireland to take such a jump.

"They (the Isle of Man) are in a unique situation," he said. "They are kind of half in and half out of the European Union. They have affiliations with the U.K., but they also are able to do a lot of things independently from the crown.”

There are enough prospective customers to make Ireland a viable place to locate operations. That coupled with the fact that the country was recently among the world’s top producers of software and is now looking for ways to fill the void left by an economic downturn, could be enough to get future governments in Ireland to study the issue more seriously. But even that is a long shot, the lawyer said.

"The e-gaming industry could be a substantial source of lost revenue for the government," he said. "Ireland has said it is open to e-commerce, but is it an area that would want to get into gaming? It could make a political and economical statement. But anyone interested in establishing Ireland as an online gaming jurisdiction is going to have an uphill battle in front of them."

Update: No I-Gaming in Ireland--For Now is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith