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Irish Online Gambling Laws Explained

Ireland has long been a country where gambling is a key part of the culture. The arrival of the internet has naturally resulted in a change in the way that people in Ireland gamble. Now, it is easier than ever to place bets as a result of smartphones as well.

But, Irish people need to be aware of the gambling laws in the country and to help out, we have put together this complete guide to online gambling in Ireland.

Overall, online gambling in Ireland is multi-million dollar industry and Irish players can gamble on sports, casino games, poker, bingo, lotteries and more on licensed and legal gambling websites. The current gambling laws allow Irish residents to gamble on licensed offshore (not located in Ireland) betting sites & online casinos as well as domestically licensed sites located in Ireland.

But, online gambling is only legal in Ireland as long as players gamble on websites that hold a valid gambling Irish gambling licence, or a valid remote gambling licence from a respected authority such as the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).

Punters can also visit legal betting shops across the country with popular brands such as BoyleSports & Paddy Power boasting 100's of shops all over Ireland. To gamble in a betting shop or online, you must be at least 18 years old.

History of Online Gambling in Ireland

Gambling has taken place for hundreds of years in Ireland, but naturally, the rules and regulations surrounding betting in the country have gone through various changes.

It was all the way back in the 1850s when gambling in Ireland was first controlled through the introduction of the Betting Act of 1854.

Betting Acts 1931 to 2015 have since been introduced in a bid to bring the country's legislation more up to date.

With gambling being so popular in Ireland - not least because it is one of the hearts of the horse racing industry - it has been a challenge for rules and regulations to keep pace.

The Betting Act of 1854 was mostly unchanged for 100 years, but the Gaming and Lotteries Act of 1956 moved to address the slow growth in casino gambling in Ireland.

Unlike in a lot of other European nations, Ireland does not have a particular history with casinos, though gambling is common in some of the country's private members' clubs.

What the Gaming and Lotteries Act of 1956 did was prohibit commercial casinos, though the members' clubs were allowed to continue to operate their own casino games.

Poker and other casino games are among those to be commonly played in these private members' clubs, but as there are only a dozen so in Ireland, they are deemed insignificant.

Of course, the unstoppable rise of the internet resulted in many of Ireland's gambling laws being left unfit for purpose.

Essentially, online gambling in Ireland is legal, though there are still debates about the regulatory framework that could result in changes to the law in the future.

Ireland's Gambling Laws as They Stand

For a few years now, the debate has been raging in Ireland over the Gambling Control Bill of 2013, which is yet to be passed.

Authored by Alan Shatter, the bill would lead to further regulation of the gambling industry, both online and offline.

As well as regulatory updates, the bill would result in it becoming legal for there to be dozens of bricks and mortar casinos in Ireland, changing the face of gambling in the country.

Introducing so many offline casinos - which would be allowed to run around 15 gaming tables each - would raise a large amount of money in revenue for the Irish government.

Gambling in Ireland is currently worth around a billion euros, but the industry is essentially self-regulated. The Gambling Control Bill of 2013, if it is passed by Parliament, would change this but the lack of clarity over how Ireland is governed right now is slowing progress.

The Gaming and Lotteries Act in 2019 tweaked the rules and regulations surrounding gambling in Ireland, whether online or offline.

Laws related to lotteries and sports betting were among those to be changed by the Gaming and Lotteries Act in 2019, which also permitted low stakes offline gambling services.

As is the case around the world, non-essential businesses, including those where gambling takes place, have been ordered to close their doors as a result of the spread of COVID-19.

It is unclear how much of a damaging impact this is going to have on Ireland's gambling industry, but the future of such businesses have been thrust into doubt as a result.

In March 2015, the Betting (Amendment) Act was signed into law which meant if any operator accepts bets from anyone in Ireland, they will be subject to Irish licensing and taxation. This act was designed to update the Betting Act 1931 which for obvious reasons, failed to account and address the explosion of online gambling.

Now, Irish players can gamble online with regulated offshore betting sites and online casinos as well as domestically licenced online gambling websites.

The Betting Act of 2015 made it illegal to facilitate gambling to players in Ireland without one of three licenses. The penalty for operators can be a fine up to €150,000 for a first offence, and a fine up to €300,000 for following offences.

  • A licence for retail bookmakers
  • A licence for operators offering remote betting to customers based in Ireland
  • A licence for operators who facilitate Irish customers making bets (such as a betting exchange)

On BettingGuide.com, you will only find legal operators and we reference the licence number in each of our operator reviews.

If you are looking to gamble online from Ireland, be sure to check that the online operator is legal and licensed in Ireland or holds offshore licenses from respected authorities in the industry such as the UK Gambling Commission, Malta Gaming Authority, or the Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association.

Future Changes to Ireland's Online Gambling Laws

It seems likely that there will be changes to Ireland's online gambling laws at some point in the future. Fianna Fail is on record as saying reforming gambling in the country is one of their top priorities but the current coalition, which also includes Fine Gael and the Green Party, has not yet taken any such measures to update the country's rules and regulations on gambling.

The impact of the coronavirus crisis also has to be taken into account. Ireland, like a lot of countries, has been hit hard financially by the pandemic. This could hasten the introduction of more controls over online gambling operators in Ireland, to raise much-needed funds.

It is over a decade since online gambling was legalised in Ireland and the picture does not seem set to change by too much. While there could be more regulation of the sector in the future, it would be a massive surprise if online gambling were to suddenly be banned in the country.

At the moment, both local and offshore operators must apply for licenses to run online gambling sites in Ireland. But the country has become a popular base for such operators over the course of the past decade, which has meant gamblers in the country have had a lot of good options.

Increased regulation in Ireland might occur with the introduction of a similar body to the Gambling Commission in the UK, as at the moment there is no central authority that has responsibility for controlling Ireland's gambling industry.

For now, then, players who like to gamble online in Ireland have little to worry about. There are no important rules for them to remember about online gambling in Ireland, as is the case in some other parts of the world. But it is worth keeping an eye on the news for any changes.

Rules for Different Types of Online Gambling

Many countries around the world have varying rules for different types of online gambling, such as the following options.

  • Online sports betting 
  • Online casino 
  • Online bingo 
  • Lotteries 
  • Poker

Let's have a look at how the Irish gambling laws stand for each of those five popular areas.

Online Sports Betting

Horse racing is huge in Ireland and, as the Sport of Kings is intrinsically linked to gambling, it is no surprise it makes up a large proportion of online sports betting in the country.

Betting on horse racing through the internet is completely 100% legal in Ireland and this is unlikely to ever change given how important the sport is here.

Online sportsbooks were legalised back in 2015 when an Amendment to the Betting Act passed. The change to the Irish gambling laws meant that it was then legal to run an offshore sportsbook in Ireland.

Despite this, Irish bookmakers are still some of the most popular to use when it comes to online sports betting in the country. As an example, the Irish betting brand Paddy Power is now one of the top options for online sports betting anywhere in the world. BoyleSports is another of the major Irish bookmakers. 

As well as horse racing, sports such as football are very popular to bet on in Ireland too.

Online Casino

It is also fully legal to use online casinos in Ireland. As we mentioned earlier, it is worth keeping an eye on the progress of the Gambling Control Bill of 2013 to see how the rules and regulations in Ireland could change in the coming years.

Local and offshore operators are all able to apply for a license to run an online casino in Ireland. It was only really at the start of the century that online casinos started to become popular but they have become a very popular hobby for a lot of people in the country.

Slot games are among the most popular options at online casinos in Ireland. It is also fair to note the rise in live casino games, which helps to address the lack of offline casinos that are available to visit in the country.

Live casino games can include classics such as blackjack and roulette, with an extra social edge included as players can chat to the human dealer during games.

Online Bingo

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 licence to stay within the law.

Lotteries

Lotteries, in general, are legal in Ireland and a lot of people in the country enjoy them.

The Gaming and Lotteries Act was brought in to update the Irish gambling laws in this area.

It is not in doubt that the most popular lottery in Ireland right now is the Irish National Lottery.

The Regulator of the National Lottery has been established to make sure that lotteries in Ireland are run fairly and legally.

To run a lottery in Ireland, operators must secure the acquisition of a lottery licence, while raising money for good causes is a prerequisite to be allowed to run an Irish lottery.

Poker

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

Poker also comes under 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 distinction between games of skill and games of chance, or those that offer a combination of both, such as poker and blackjack.

Poker is one of the types of online gambling that is likely to see the rules and regulations change should the long-awaited Gambling Control Bill of 2013 be passed into law at some point.

That could lead to the introduction of a new online gambling regulator, which could take responsibility for overseeing poker games in the country.

Online Gambling in Ireland - FAQs

Who regulates gambling in Ireland?
How much is a gambling licence in Ireland?
What is the legal gambling age in Ireland?
Is gambling tax-free in Ireland?