A Gambling regulator must be established without delay to ensure proper oversight and control of the online gambling industry, according to Fine Gael Senator Joe O’Reilly.
Senator O’Reilly said betting companies must ensure that clients can cancel their accounts without being locked into onerous terms and conditions, in order to address the issue of problem gambling.
Senator O’Reilly, who represents Cavan-Monaghan, said, “I was alarmed to read a recent report online of one customer of an online betting company who had difficultly cancelling his account after requesting it through customer support, with the agent repeatedly asking for a reason for the cancellation.
“The company allows users to get scores on football games, horse racing and other sporting fixtures, and they can also watch matches live when they download an app.
“However, in order to watch certain matches, they direct a user to sign up and give their account details and a deposit amount, where they are given odds for the game and can then place a bet very simply at the touch of their phone screen.
“These apps can be a popular way for sporting enthusiasts to watch their favourite matches on the go, but too easily they require users to sign up to a betting account which can be difficult to opt out of with terms and conditions.
“It makes the lure of gambling all too attractive and easy to pursue for those who could become addicted and find themselves in trouble financially.
“Gambling addition is an issue I have raised previously in the Seanad, as it has devastating effects on those who become addicted and their families in communities up and down the country.
“As much as €10,000 per minute is spent on gambling in this country, and it is believed that 29,000 people suffer from gambling addiction, with a rise in online gambling since the onset of Covid.
“In October, the General Scheme of the Gambling Regulation Bill was published and approved by Government. This will give an independent statutory body powers to regulate advertising, gambling websites and apps, in addition to covering gambling online and in person.
“I would like to see the Gambling Regulator have significant oversight of operators offering gambling activities, with the proper compliance and enforcement powers in place. It is hoped the new legislation will ensure that users have adequate protections, and will go some way in combatting problem gambling.
“We must ensure the laws governing the betting and gaming industry reflects the ever-evolving developments in technology, and we must have a radical solution to address the issue of problem gambling,” Senator O’Reilly concluded.