Advertising & Marketing Law Update

A tool commonly used by businesses in promoting their product is some form of prize competition for their customers. These can be seen in the form of prize draws, online competitions, instant win competitions where the consumer can see if they win on opening the product, scratch cards etc. Such competitions are subject to strict regulation in Ireland, particularly if they fall within the definition of a lottery under the Gaming and Lotteries Acts, 1956-1986. In order to avoid falling within the definition of a lottery many promoters found themselves having to introduce costly and time consuming elements to the competition such as skill questions or a free alternative method of entry.

On 22/12/10 the Department of Justice and Law Reform published its report labelled “Options for Regulating Gambling” following a public consultation on reform of gambling laws in Ireland. Much of the report relates to the laws surrounding traditional gambling and casinos however consideration was also given to the law surrounding lotteries. The existing law is that once a promotion fits within the definition of a “lottery” it must be licensed in default of which it will be illegal. Licenses can only be obtained in limited circumstances.

It is now proposed to amend those definitions to allow for certain permissible lotteries which would operate under a permit issued by the Department of Justice and Law Reform. In particular, competitions associated with a sales or marketing drive will be allowed to apply to the Department of Justice and Law Reform for a permit subject to compliance with requirements and regulations set out by the Department.

The details of any proposed legislation have not yet been released and indeed there may be a lengthy delay in the release of any draft legislation given that a general election is due to be held in Ireland in March 2011.