It looks as if Ireland may be joining the European trend to a more liberal but regulated approach to all forms of gambling, following a statement Friday by the Minister of Justice Dermot Ahern.
The Irish Times reports that Ahern has signalled his intention to liberalise the State's gambling laws by legalising casinos and creating a new regulatory authority for all forms of gaming.
Ahern told The Irish Times that existing laws on gambling were "past their sell-by date", but added that no changes would be made until cross-party agreement was reached and the public had been consulted on the issue. Most parties had agreed to the proposal to set up a cross-party committee on gambling but talks were continuing, he said.
Under the 1956 Gaming and Lotteries Act, [land] casinos are illegal, but there are up to 50 private members' clubs offering roulette, blackjack and other casino-type games around the country. Asked if he intended to close these clubs down, the Minister replied: "We are past the day when we can outlaw them. What we need to do is regulate them in a way that is fair."
Ahern promised to publish in the near future the report of the inter-departmental Casino Regulatory Committee established by his predecessor (see previous InfoPowa reports). It is believed that this document recommends legalization of moderately sized venues under strict regulatory controls with solid protection for players and vulnerable individuals.
It is also understood that the McDowell report is strongly against allowing fixed odds betting terminals in bookmakers' premises or pubs but may consider allowing them on licensed gaming premises.