This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [ Irland: Ausländische Wettseiten könnten gesperrt werden |]

The Irish government plans to block foreign betting websites. The
Betting (Amendment) Bill 2012 would allow the District Court to make
orders as follows:

“in the case of a remote bookmaker or remote bookmaking intermediary, an
order that telecommunications service providers and internet service
providers in the State shall not permit access to:
(i) the internet address of any internet domain that the
remote bookmaker or remote betting intermediary concerned uses for the
purposes of conducting his business,
(ii) a particular facility in such a domain, or
(iii) any other order that that court considers appropriate
for the purpose of ensuring that any such domain, or any remote
bookmaking operation conducted by the remote bookmaker or remote betting
intermediary concerned is not accessible to persons in the State.”

As TJ McIntyre from EDRi member Digital Rights Ireland comments, “the
reference to internet “service” providers rather than internet “access”
providers appears to be wide enough to cover any service provider which
could be used to access a site – which would appear to include providers
of VPNs, search engines, DNS providers and others. This wide power is
then further supplemented by a power to make “any other order” that
(the) court considers “appropriate” to ensure that the domain etc. “is
not accessible”. This seems to be drafted with a view to ordering that
sites should be delisted from search engines but could, potentially, be
used against any internet intermediary and could be used to, for
example, block access to proxy sites and other tools which might be used
to circumvent the blocking.”

The Irish government plans come as a surprise as there are no other
previous governmental documents recommending this action. Quite the
contrary; the 2008 report Regulating Gaming in Ireland contains a
warning against site blocking: “The Committee is of the view that
censorship of the Internet in an effort to achieve such ends is
frequently self-defeating, is unlikely to achieve the intended results,
leads to the diversion of scarce law enforcement resources and
frequently has unintended and undesirable consequences.” The same
conclusions are restated in the 2010 report “Options for Regulating
Gambling” which contains no recommendation of blocking systems.

According to the recent European Commission Staff Working Paper on
Online Gambling, blocking access to websites is useless as it and can be
easily circumvented. And also dangerous as, “depending on the technology
used, website blocking can impact on legitimate businesses. The
efficiency of the blocking method furthermore depends on the validity of
the list of blocked websites. Keeping the list up-to-date requires
significant resources while internet addresses can be changed instantly.
Lastly, ISPs are faced with the implementation of the provisions for
blocking access to websites, not only implying costs and tying-up of
resources but also creating potential liability issues.”

Besides the futility of the action, forcing ISPs to block a type of
websites will only create a precedent which may lead to the extension of
this purpose to other types of websites.

Internet betting: Irish government seeks to introduce blocking on no
evidence and against EU findings (25.10.2012)