Monday, May 20, 2024

Political Fundraising Lotteries Off The Hook In New Gambling Bill

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Political parties will not be covered by the new Gambling Regulation Bill which is to be passed by the Dáil.

The controversial Bill, which will limit individual bets to just €10 in certain circumstances, was scheduled to reach the report and final stages recently.

However, it was delayed as several items were dropped from the political agenda given the sudden resignation of Leo Varadkar and appointment of a new Taoiseach.

The Bill will establish the Gambling Regulatory authority of Ireland, which will oversee of all areas of gambling, including charitable and philanthropic lotteries.

Political parties will not be covered by the new Gambling Regulation Bill which is to be passed by the Dáil. Pic: Getty Images

It will also affect popular competitions such as radio’s Cash Machine, which runs five days a week across media group Bauer’s network of Irish radio stations, including Today FM, Newstalk, 98FM, Spin 1038 and Red FM.

However, under the terms of the Bill, which includes penalties as severe as five years’ jail, the regulator will not have oversight of political party lotteries.

The so-called ‘Superdraw’ is a critical revenue-raising measure for many parties and features lavish prizes such as cars and large cash amounts.

Between 2018 and 2020, Fianna Fáil raised more than €1.6million from its Superdraws alone, and between 2001 and 2021, Fine Gael raised €17million. The latter party expects to raise a war chest of €2million in 2024.

Pic: Shutterstock
It will also affect popular competitions such as radio’s Cash Machine, which runs five days a week across media group Bauer’s network of Irish radio stations, including Today FM, Newstalk, 98FM, Spin 1038 and Red FM. Pic: Shutterstock

Under the Gambling Regulation Bill, punters and bingo players are in for drastic changes as it intends to strictly limit the amount individuals can either stake or win on any given bet.

The Government wants to limit the amount that people can place on any bet to €10 and cap winnings at €3,000.

Industry sources say the Bill ‘currently making its way through the Houses of the Oireachtas is a landmark and long-overdue piece of legislation’. It aims to establish oversight of a sector frequently characterised as the ‘Wild West’.

But concerns are growing over ‘exceptionalism’, by which, as the Bill stands, there will continue to be no significant regulation of fundraising lotteries for political parties. The Gambling Regulation Bill states that it will not provide regulation of any lottery operated by political parties, and the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland (GRAI) has also said it will not oversee any political party lotteries.

The Bill provides restrictions for all other lotteries apart from the National lottery, and the GRAI will have oversight of all other lotteries.

James Browne, Minister of State at the Department of Justice, who has responsibility for the Bill, recently confirmed that even lotteries such as Bauer Media’s cash Machine, which are very popular, will be subject to the new regulations.

Pic: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos
James Browne, Minister of State at the Department of Justice, who has responsibility for the Bill, recently confirmed that even lotteries such as Bauer Media’s cash Machine, which are very popular, will be subject to the new regulations. Pic: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

one source said: ‘There has to be a concern that politicians are being provided with favourable treatment whether intentionally or not.’

The special status of politicians in this matter was confirmed by one minister, who said: ‘Yes, we are covered by boutique legislation.’

Political party lotteries continue to be governed by the terms of the Electoral Reform act 2022, which imposes the same restrictions that charitable or philanthropic lotteries are subject to in the Gambling Regulation Bill – but, notably, with no regulatory oversight.

This is despite the fact there is both legislation and a Supreme court ruling stating political parties are not charities. an industry source says this means that ‘despite restrictions on maximum stakes that will be imposed on other lotteries, with the exception of lotteries for charitable or philanthropic purposes, political party lotteries are not subject to any maximum stake restrictions, nor any limits on the amount of money that can be raised through a lottery’.

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