Calls for gambling law overhaul
Any plans for Ireland to have its own Las Vegas-style development have been dealt a blow as it emerged the country is too small to support it, but proposals to overhaul the country's historic gaming laws have found that such a move could create thousands of jobs and top up dwindling state coffers.
The consultation paper, Options for Regulating Gambling, added any development would be subject to strict regulation from a new independent body and on-site regulation.
The report, published by Justice Minister Dermot Ahern, said resort casinos would generate large-scale employment during construction and operation, when it could house up to 1,500 gaming machines, live entertainment, dining and refreshments spread across some 5,000 square metres of floor space. They should also provide a high return to the state in terms of licensing fees and gambling tax revenue, it found.
Mr Ahern said his wish was to protect the vulnerable while laws are brought in to the 21st century.
He said: "Our existing laws regulating gambling are not fit for purpose in this age of mass global communications. It is my wish that gambling regulation should be brought into the 21st century and that means improved protection for minors and vulnerable adults, more transparent operations by gambling providers, and more effective measures against fraud and illegal gambling and criminality".
Ambitious plans for a super casino, sports complex and entertainment resort near the village of Two-Mile-Borris have already been approved by North Tipperary County Council. The 460 million euro project features a 6,000sq metre casino, a replica of the White House, a 500-bedroom five-star hotel and an entertainment complex, but changes are needed to the Gaming Act for the casino to obtain a licence to operate.
The project has been openly backed by Independent TD Michael Lowry - who maintained he made no demands on the issue when he agreed to back the Government's controversial six million euro budget.
Those in opposition fear gambling will rise, hitting the poorest communities hardest and spiralling more people in to debt. Members of organised crime will also have a means to launder money, it is claimed.
Other measures in Options for Regulating Gambling propose that responsibility for all gambling activities fall under a new unified regulator for gambling, headed by the Department of Justice, with local authorities having powers over planning and licensing arrangements.
Remote gambling over the internet, phone, and interactive TV should also be regulated under strict licensing conditions, irrespective of whether the product is offered from within Ireland, or from off-shore, it added.