We saw the publication of the Gambling Regulation Bill in December 2022. This is a landmark piece of legislation intended to reform and modernise the law on licensing and regulation of gambling in Ireland.
We review the potential impact of the Bill, not on the traditional gambling sector, but on charitable fundraising.
By consolidating existing legislation on the topic, some of which dates back to the 1920s, the Bill heralds a single governance framework for the regulation of gambling, for the first time in Irish law. The Bill also paves the way for the establishment of a new gambling regulator, the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland (GRAI). Read our recent insight on the Gambling Regulation Bill 2022.
Requirement for a licence
For many of us, when we hear the term “gambling”, we think of multi-national sports betting companies, fantasy leagues or online poker. That “Las Vegas image” may not include Easter Egg raffles in the local school hall, or the annual prize draw for a Christmas turkey for a local charity. However, for many charities, this sort of event is relied on as a staple means of fundraising. The public get to support the good work of the charity, whilst also being in with the chance to claim a prize. It’s a win-win.
Under the Bill, some such activities, despite not being understood by charities or their patrons as “gambling”, will require a licence.
There are three separate categories of licence, which may be applied for, and granted by the GRAI. One of these is a “Licence for a Charitable or Philanthropic Purpose”.
This separate category of charitable licence is intended to be a streamlined process to obtain a licence to authorise the carrying out of certain gaming or lottery activities. The GRAI may attach different conditions to a charitable or philanthropic licence than might apply to the other categories.
What fundraising activities will be regulated?
The specifics of exactly what kind of fundraising activity will require a charitable licence will be prescribed by the GRAI, once up and running. However, based on the definitions provided in the Bill, we know that this will include lotteries, such as a bingo, raffle or prize-draw activity, that involves hazarding a guess of future events. Games of skill or chance, whereby participants, having made a payment, could win a prize, will also be covered. Any charity or not-for-profit wishing to host this type of fundraising event, whether online or in-person, may be required to first seek and obtain a charitable licence from the GRAI.
A welcome provision in the Bill will allow certain small lotteries to be carried out without the need to apply for a licence. This option will be available to charities and not-for-profits for raffles with maximum winnings of up to €2,000 in value, provided that entry tickets cost at least €5, and only 1,500 tickets or less are sold.
Protections in the Bill
The Bill introduces protections aimed at safeguarding consumers, problem gamblers and children. These measures are aimed at gambling operators, and were not designed with charities in mind, but could lead to unintended consequences for the sector. For example, a licence-holding charity or sports club could be banned from producing or distributing any merchandise with the charity’s logo or branding at an event at which children might be present, or that might be used or worn by a child.
This is because, although a charitable licence will be subject to different conditions than a typical gambling licence, the Bill does not distinguish categories of licence-holders. Therefore, these wider protective provisions of the Bill will apply in the same way to licence-holding charities as to large betting companies.
The Bill also introduces a ban on advertising a gambling activity on tv, radio or on-demand media between the hours of 5:30am – 9pm. In addition, there will be an outright ban on social media advertising, unless the targeted recipient has subscribed and specifically opted in to receiving gambling related advertising from that sender. These rules will also apply to any charity or not-for-profit that seeks and obtains a charitable licence. Charities will not be used to any such restrictions applying to their fundraisers and will therefore need to carefully consider which new rules will apply.
Increased compliance requirements for charities
Similarly, a licence-holding charity will also be required to notify the GRAI of material events such as a change in address, or any change to the charity trustees, within 7 days. This could add to the burden of regulation on charity trustees.
Once enacted, this Bill will consolidate the licensing and regulation of gambling in Ireland. New rules are focused on public safety and protection, and will be generally welcomed by society, and the many charities who exist to raise awareness and support for people affected by problem gambling.
However, if enacted in its current form, the Bill will also have a significant impact on how charities are permitted to conduct certain types of fundraising activities. The Bill is currently at Committee Stage. This means that further changes to tailor the legislation to the charities sector may still be possible. Our team will be closely monitoring its development.
For more information on how the new regime may affect your fundraising operations following enactment, contact a member of our Charity and Not-for-Profit team.
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.