Experts have warned that the reforms of the Irish Gaming Bill which is currently before the country’s Legislature could end up with the slot machines’ maximum stake being boosted 300 times.
For more than 50 years, or since the Gaming and Lotteries Act was transformed into law in 1956, the 3% maximum stake for gaming machines has not been changed, not once. The stake, as well as the payout limit of 50 cents, have been considered harshly deviating from current standards and have long faced amusement arcade operators’ criticism, mockery and open disregard.
However, there has been a concern that the increase of the maximum stake limit to €10 and the new maximum prize of €750 will make an already serious issue associated with gambling addiction in Ireland even more serious. Two independent Senators, Gerard Craughwell and David Norris, strongly criticised the updated piece of legislation at the time when the Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill was subject to debates in the Upper House in June 2019. According to them, the increases were both too large and would create many more problems than the ones which already exist.
The new Bill is to come as the first part of wider reforms of gambling legislation, which will make sure a special gambling regulatory body is established within a couple of years.
The Bill’s Sponsor Minister Stanton Remains Open to Discussion
The changes which could become part of the amended Irish Gaming Bill were strongly criticised by an organisation which specialises in the provision of services to gambling addicts.
The Chief Executive Officer of Problem Gambling Ireland, Barry Grant, has explained that even with the nominal 3% limit, the organisation has already faced a lot of people who could be categorised as problem gamblers. According to information revealed by Mr Grant, such people went into casinos and arcades and gambled their week’s wages away only in a few hours to eventually walk out with nothing. Mr Grant has now asked the question how much more quickly would such people lose their money if the market remains largely unregulated but the stakes are boosted.
David Stanton, Minister of State in the Department of Justice, who is the main sponsor of the new measure, has explained that the stakes which were set out in 1956 were totally unrealistic and had to be brought up to date. According to him, other gaming services, such as lotteries, bingo and scratch cards already provide much larger stakes and prizes.
The sponsor of the amended bill has further explained that he was open to discussion and debate related to the maximum stakes permitted in the legislation. The new piece of legislation is also aimed at providing the Minister for Justice with powers to increase or decrease the maximum betting stakes.
The bill was welcomed by Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil.