Labour Senator Mark Wall has called on the Irish government to consider tougher restrictions on gambling advertising stating that the Irish public face an ‘avalanche’ of ads and promotions ahead of this year’s Cheltenham Racing Festival.
The festival begins today (Tuesday March 14th) in one of the busiest weeks of the year for Irish bookmakers. The festival coincides with the St. Patrick’s Day public holiday and is traditionally the most visited of all UK racing festivals for Irish racing fans.
Senator Wall’s comments follow the announcement that Belgium has introduced a blanket ban on gambling advertising across all forms of media.
Speaking in the Seanad (Ireland’s Senate), Wall said:
“There’s a tsunami of gambling adverts, particularly in the last few weeks. It’s not getting better and with Cheltenham, it’s getting worse. What the bookies have done is created a strong link between sport and gambling. We need to let people enjoy sport the way it was intended to be. Gambling ads are doing the damage and they have to go.”
Ireland’s new gambling regulator is set to take control of the gambling industry in the coming months with major reforms expected to come into effect later this year or early next year. As a result, this year’s Cheltenham Festival is expected to be the last festival during which local bookmakers have free reign over their marketing efforts.
The regulator is expected to limit gambling advertising on TV and radio between the hours of 5.30am and 9pm. However, Senator Wall wants to ban ads outright. According to Wall, 9pm is primetime viewing and once past the watershed, he fears that gamblers will face a barrage of ads that could further exacerbate the harms of problem gambling.
Wall went on to add:
“This is a public health issue. And the minister [of state, James Browne] to his credit has recognised this as well. I know of one man who was on the verge of gambling €1,000 in savings that he couldn’t afford to lose. He’d been through it and come out the far side, but had been influenced by adverts. We need to protect those that may be vulnerable. And just give everyone a breather.”
The long-awaited Gambling Regulation Bill is now at a committee stage with amendments still expected before the final draft of the bill is ratified by lawmakers.
Image credit: James Stringer / CC BY-NC 2.0