Is it legal to play at online casinos in Ireland?

Is it legal to play at online casinos in Ireland
Is it legal to play at online casinos in Ireland

Ireland is a popular tourist destination as it offers impressive green countryside, rich country culture, many historic landmarks, and friendly people. There are many things that people want to do when they reach Ireland. But is it legal to play at online casinos in Ireland?

There is an abundance of interesting facts that will delight you here as a tourist attraction. If you are looking for a more daring experience then look for the games of chance. 

Enjoying casino games is a reflection of Irish culture and is considered one of the must-do activities when visiting Ireland. At the same time, there are several things you should pay attention to. One of them is – is it legal to play at online casinos in Ireland. Here are the basic laws everybody should know before indulging in any kind of casino game. 

Gambling has been a favorite pastime of Irish citizens. It has been rooted deeply into the culture of the country and it is considered a pro-gambling region. Currently, the country’s law supports various forms of land-based casinos and online gambling within its island borders.

Ireland is popular for sports betting also

Ireland is popular for sports betting also
Ireland is popular for sports betting also

Ireland is widely known for the horse and greyhound racing activities organized there, other forms of gambling are also popular. It includes bookmakers and adjusting premises, as well as wagering. All these have been subject to regulation in the country since the 18th century by different statutes and common law. You must know if playing online casinos games is legal to play at online casinos in Ireland!

Billions of Euros are spent on both land-based and online gambling by the local citizens, each year. Irish players can choose from a decent selection of gambling opportunities throughout the country; from pari-mutuel wagering to the lottery, casino games, and poker (Ireland is home to a thriving poker gaming industry), among others.

Remote interactive gambling is also available in the country which is governed by domestically licensed gambling sites as well as legally licensed online gambling sites that are regulated offshore.

Gambling Law in Ireland

Gambling Law in IrelandIs it legal to play at online casinos in Ireland
Gambling Law in Ireland

Gambling in Ireland was not subject to many regulatory changes for many years until 1956 when the Gaming and Lotteries Act was established. The law made it illegal for commercial casinos to operate in the country. Still, a loophole in the law helped so-called ‘private members clubs’ get established by creative business owners.

The clubs, which are not prohibited in Ireland, are like mini-casinos that offer a variety of games including slots, video poker, blackjack and poker games, among others. In 2020, some 14 of these destinations were operating in Ireland, the majority of which were in Dublin and surrounding areas. They require a membership to be a part of it. It is perfectly legal to play casino games for real money at these clubs as doing so does not violate the 1956 law. So, this would have answered your query if is it legal to play at online casinos in Ireland?

The Gaming and Lotteries Act of 1956 lies at the very core of contemporary gaming and gambling legislation in Ireland.

Relevant legislation and regulation

Relevant legislation and regulation
Relevant legislation and regulation

In 2013, an effort to legalize casino gambling in Ireland was made. The Gambling Control Bill of 2013 would see Ireland’s gambling laws completely overhauled, leading to the lion’s share of gambling being regulated by a single piece of legislation. However, it has yet to be passed by parliament.

Of late, the Irish Gambling Control Bill 2018 was introduced and has reportedly made updates in the gambling industry since 2013. The bill’s primary purpose is to control and monitor all types of gambling facilities including land-based and online casinos that provide their services and products in Ireland.

It would also establish the Office of Gambling Control Ireland (OGCI), which would be responsible for the aforementioned, as well as the fair treatment of players, the protection of vulnerable groups, e.g., children, etc.

This bill also restricts the number of brick-and-mortars to 40 licenses for the entire country at any one time. There is no regulation in the bill for ‘supercasinos.’ And each casino is limited to operating a maximum of 15 tables and 25 gaming machines.

Also within its scope is betting, which if the bill is enacted, approximately five separate gambling and betting licenses will be offered by the OGCI, including betting, gaming, personal, temporary and remote licenses.

This would cover both betting and gaming. However, betting on horseracing and greyhounds would be regulated by Horse Racing Ireland and the Greyhound Board, respectively.

Betting Law

Betting Law
Betting Law

Until 2015, all betting and sports activities were regulated by the Betting Act of 1931. It was implemented after the repeal of its predecessor, the Betting Act of 1926. Among the country’s citizens, bookmaking is the most popular type of gambling.

Included into law in 2015, the Betting Amendment Act established specific licensing needs and procedures and paved the way for offshore sportsbooks and betting exchanges to merge with Irish licensing policies and taxation requirements.

As per the bill, online betting businesses looking to offer their services to Irish citizens must first acquire a remote bookmaker or betting intermediary license. To do so without one was illegal.

Lotteries and Gaming Law

Lotteries and Gaming Law
Lotteries and Gaming Law

This category falls in the Gaming and Lotteries Act of 1956. The Act makes gaming illegal unless it is included in certain exemptions.

The latter is also divided into two types. One is liked with gaming that happens at carnivals, circuses, or traveling shows. The second type of exemption is integrated with how gambling activities and games are operated.

The Act of 1956 cannot be directly related to online gambling, but some provisions are considered technically applicable to such types of operations. Still, some major legislative changes are needed to change the Act and make it more flexible to cover online gaming, too.

According to the Gaming and Lottery Act of 1956, lotteries are legal in Ireland, though with some restrictions. The Irish National Lottery, which is the largest lottery in the state, is governed by the National Lottery Act 2013.

The national lottery games are subject to the rules approved and imposed by the Minister of Finance.

Casino Law in Ireland

Casino Law in Ireland
Casino Law in Ireland

Casinos are illegal in Ireland if the 1956 laws on gambling and betting are referred. Unlike in the UK, there are no land-based casinos in Ireland. But betting establishments exist. This is all due to the loophole in the laws. So, it is not legal to play casinos in Ireland.

Although casinos and other gambling establishments open to the public are banned, private clubs are allowed to offer betting machines and tables to members. This has led to the rise of around 12 so-called “private gambling clubs” in the country.

Seven casinos are located in the national capital Dublin, while others can be found in major cities like Dundalk, Cork and Limerick. The entry is valid for 18+ years and timings vary depending on the club. The dress code is usually business casual, or it can even be formal depending on the operator.

Sports betting Law in Ireland

Sports betting Law in Ireland
Sports betting Law in Ireland

Betting on horse racing continues to be one of the biggest spots and biggest sources of revenue for the Irish gambling industry. You can place bets on races and sporting events through many channels. Earlier, it was restricted to licensed local sportsbooks and betting counters at racecourses.

But in 2015, an Amendment to the Betting Act was introduced, which legalized online sportsbooks, including those based outside Ireland in foreign lands. As long as they apply for a license and follow the laws, offshore sportsbooks can provide betting markets to Irish customers.

There are options like betting shops from local brands like BoyleSports, as well as big international bookies like Paddy Power, Coral, Betfair, and Ladbrokes. After horse racing, the most popular sports for betting include football (soccer), Gaelic football, and golf.

Online Bingo Law

Online Bingo Law
Online Bingo Law

Online bingo operators are also among the legally licensed businesses in Ireland.

This is an interesting area of the online gambling industry in the country given that online bingo, in contrast to other games, tends to attract an older and generally female audience.

Online bingo in Ireland is generally considered to be a lottery, which means that this area is governed primarily by the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956.

Commercial bingo operators in Ireland must hold a lottery license to stay within the law.

Poker Law

Poker Law
Poker Law

Lastly, online poker is also 100% legal in Ireland – it is one of the most popular casino games to play in the country.

Poker is regulated by the Gaming and Lotteries Act rather than there being any specific Irish gambling laws around the game. Online poker is, therefore, not specifically regulated in Ireland.

Offshore licensed online poker rooms are permitted to run in Ireland, as well as those that are domestically licensed, giving poker players a lot of choices over which site they want to join.

Unlike in some other countries around the world, Irish gambling laws do not make any differentiation between games of skill and games of chance, or those that offer a combination of both, such as poker and blackjack.

Lotteries in Ireland

Lotteries in Ireland
Lotteries in Ireland

You can enjoy three types of lottery games in Ireland – Lotto, EuroMillions, Daily Million, all hosted by the Irish National Lottery since 1987. You can also buy scratchcards, participate in raffles, and play TV bingo games hosted by the National Lottery in Ireland.

Though it all started as a national agency owned by the government, the National Lottery has become private in recent years due to financial issues. The Lottery Act was amended in 2013 to allow private ownership through a licensing system. It also permitted the sale of online lottery tickets to increase revenues.

Online Gambling sites in Ireland

Online Gambling sites in Ireland
Online Gambling sites in Ireland

Along with online sportsbooks, online casino gambling was also legalized in Ireland in this last decade. This means that although the land casinos are formally banned, you can play all the same games like roulette, blackjack, poker and baccarat online while you are in Ireland, fully legal.

Since Irish law allows both local and offshore operators to apply for a license, there are tons of sites offering casino games in Ireland. These include operators based in the nearby UK, as well as other EU gambling hotspots like Malta.

Some of these casinos include:

FAQs

1. Is gambling tax-free in Ireland?

Is gambling tax-free in Ireland
Is gambling tax-free in Ireland

However, bookmakers in Ireland should pay a levy set at one percent on all bets they take, which is in addition to the corporation tax they are also subjected to in the country.

Winning gamblers in Ireland do not have to pay tax on the money that they earn through bets.

2. How much is a gambling license in Ireland?

How much is a gambling license in Ireland
How much is a gambling license in Ireland

The initial license fee that remote bookmakers and remote betting bodies have to pay to acquire a gambling license in Ireland is 10,000 euros. It means, it is relatively affordable for the majority of operators who want to run sites in the country.

For renewals, the cost of a gambling license in Ireland varies depending on the size and success of the organisation that is applying for the document.

Sometimes the price can be around the 10,000 euros mark, but often businesses could be charged as much as 200,000 euros for the new license to be awarded.

3. What is the future of gambling in Ireland?

What is the future of gambling in Ireland
What is the future of gambling in Ireland

Since 2013, the Government has been attempting to modernise the gambling system in Ireland. Several bills have been mooted in the last 6-7 years, and the 2019 version of the Gaming and Lotteries Act was passed recently.

These amendments aim to bring these changes to the Irish gambling ecosystem, among other things:

  • Establish a uniform age limit of 18 for all gambling services
  • Create a central regulatory authority, like the UK Gambling Commission
  • Upgrade the licensing system for online gambling and sportsbooks
  • Legalize land-based casinos

Although progress has been slow, there are signs that we can expect positive changes to appear in 2020. But for the moment, locals and tourists alike have plenty of gambling options to keep them happily occupied in Ireland!

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