Ireland has taken after the UK in situating itself as a gambling-friendly nation in which online casinos are legal, regulated and safe. Gambling is a big and healthy industry in Ireland with brick-and-mortar casinos, sports betting shops, horse racing betting and online casinos. The industry is very loosely regulated, but free market forces have done an effective job at keeping the bad casinos out of business and the good casinos running strong.
Most Irish casino sites are headquartered in the UK and elsewhere, but Ireland does have a few truly local online casinos. Paddy Power, for example, is one of the world’s largest online gambling brands and is headquartered in Dublin. In short, Ireland is a good place to live if you enjoy gambling.
Here are a few of the best Irish online casinos, beginning with our favourite of them all:
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The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland take different approaches to regulating casinos in the real world, but residents of both countries are free to join the above casinos and play for real money. In both countries, online casinos operate in full view of the law. This means you will have no issues whatsoever signing up for an account, making deposits or getting paid.
The only real thing to watch out for is making sure you play at reputable online casinos in Ireland. Ireland does not censor the internet and many unlicensed casino sites are accessible through the internet. It is up to the player to choose casinos that are licensed, reputable, fair and safe. The sites that you see above meet all those qualifications.
Online casinos operating in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are also fully capable of accepting euros and pounds sterling for deposits. Both currencies are widely used in the gambling industry and will cause no problems for you in moving your money back and forth.
Online Casino Licenses in Ireland
Prior to 2015, Irish gambling law did not apply to online casinos. Lawmakers saw a need to change this with the rise in internet gambling and subsequently passed the Betting (Amendment) Act, 2015 in order to provide greater oversight and apply taxes to operators.
The Act requires all remote gambling sites wishing to serve Irish customers to acquire a proper license. The licensing process now involves submitting to an investigation for suitability, payment of a €10,000 licensing fee, and payment of taxes moving forward.
Taxes under the Act were set at 1% of turnover on all bets and a 15% tax on sports betting exchange wagers. Operators such as Paddy Power stated at the time that they were pleased with the law overall. As international gambling companies know, lawmakers around the world have a penchant to get a little greedy when setting tax rates. Irish online casinos managed to avoid that fate with a tax regimen that isn’t overly burdensome.
The Act also provides serious penalties for online casinos that accept Irish players without the proper license. Any operators caught doing so face a fine of €150,000 for the first offense and €300,000 for subsequent offenses. The law also allows courts to try cases against unlicensed operators in their absence (as in the case of an overseas casino accepting Irish customers without a license).
Irish Gambling Laws
Our discussion of Ireland’s gambling laws will be divided into two sections. Most of what we have discussed so far applies to the Republic of Ireland, but we have also included Northern Ireland for simplicity’s sake. Each nation tackles gambling differently so we’ll need to discuss the laws separately.
Gambling in the Republic of Ireland
Prior to the passage of the Betting (Amendment) Act in 2015, the entirety of gambling law in Ireland consisted of the Gaming and Lotteries Act, 1956. This act banned all forms of gambling, but enterprising business owners quickly found a loophole that allows gambling to take place in membership-only clubs. All land-based casinos in Ireland now require visitors to obtain a membership (which is just a formality in practice) before participating.
The Gaming and Lotteries Act also provides no actual regulation of casinos. What this means in practice is casino operators in Ireland are able to run the games however they see fit. Only in Ireland will you find casinos that offer lap dances and blackjack under one roof.
Despite the lack of regulation, the casino industry in Ireland is well-regarded among players. The biggest casinos have worked to build positive reputations and therefore run games that are safe and fair. It appears that the only real hard-and-fast rule for casinos in Ireland is they may not sell alcohol to patrons.
Back in 2011, the government finally declared its intention to update the law and provide proper regulation of casinos in Ireland. The Gambling Control Bill was proposed two years later to replace the Gaming and Lotteries Act. Included in the proposal were provisions requiring brick-and-mortar casinos to acquire licenses from the Minister for Justice & Equality, impose advertising restrictions and implement all manner of regulations related to the functioning of casinos.
The 2013 proposal has yet to be implemented years later. The issue comes up in discussion occasionally and always the government answers that something will be done to regulate gambling any day now. In the meantime, Irish casino operators have a wide range of freedom in choosing how they run their businesses.
Online casinos in Ireland are now regulated by the Betting (Amendment) Act, 2015. See the previous section for more information on that law.
Northern Ireland Gambling Law
Northern Ireland’s gambling laws are likewise in serious need of modernization. The only law governing gambling in Northern Ireland is the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries & Amusements (NI) Order 1985, or more simply, “The Order.” This law is based on similar legislation that existed in the UK prior to the passage of the Gambling Act 2005.
Northern Ireland lawmakers have admitted that the law is badly outdated and occasionally promises to get right on it. No new laws have been passed since, but the Minister has announced certain proposals designed to keep “crime out of gambling, ensuring fairness within the gambling industry and protecting the young and vulnerable.”
Betting shops, bingo halls, and horse racing wagering are permitted in Northern Ireland, but casinos remained prohibited to date. Major casino operators from the UK have expressed an interest in expanding their operations to Northern Ireland and pushing for an update to the gaming laws, but that wait continues today.
Fixed-odds betting terminals are currently the closest thing to legal gambling in Ireland today. Although their legality remains questionable, they are quite numerous in Northern Ireland. People in support of adopting the UK model of regulation have often made the point that fixed odds betting terminals are highly addictive, yet support for problem gambling is practically nonexistent thanks to the lack of modern gambling laws.
Wes Burns co-founded OnlineCasinoSites.com with a mission to help gamblers understand and navigate the regulated online casino market in all countries around the world. Wes is a respected gambling journalist, working in the industry since 2008.