Serious concerns over gambling advertising have developed in many countries recently, and Ireland is no exception. One of our gambling experts investigates the issue.
Fears that gambling ads and sponsorships negatively impact vulnerable individuals have fuelled fierce debate that has now led Ireland’s government to restrict gambling advertising.
The Labour Party, meanwhile, has advocated for stronger measures to be put in place, viewing an outright ban on promoting gambling as the best option to protect people from harm. The party does not believe that current regulations do enough to stem Ireland’s gambling addiction problem.
Could result in consequences for the economy
This strict policy has its critics, however, with some arguing that a complete ban would result in damaging consequences for the economy. Critics have also stressed that enforcing a ban like this would present an uphill battle due to the sheer prevalence of online gambling platforms.
The Labour Party has pushed back on these criticisms and remained adamant that the detrimental effects of gambling addiction outweigh the potential economic benefits that the gambling industry generates.
Online gambling and casino expert from Irishluck Dermot Heathcote has offered his thoughts on the matter.
“Whilst the government’s proposed restrictions on gambling advertising are a step in the right direction, it is clear that they do not go far enough,” he said.
Heathcote added that “a complete ban on gambling ads is necessary to protect vulnerable individuals from the harms of addiction and to create a safer environment for all.”
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While the regulations may not be strict enough in some eyes, it is nevertheless the most comprehensive legislation to regulate gambling in Ireland.
Coming into effect from mid-2023
Minister of State James Brown, who has declared that the legislation should be in effect by mid-2023, acknowledged the “strong views on the issue of gambling” but insisted that new regulations must balance how gambling advertising is limited so as not to cause “unintended consequences”.
The Minister pointed out that the new legislation aims to take a responsible approach that balances the freedom to gamble “with the safeguards to protect people from falling prey to addiction” and is “intended to help to protect children and prevent harm to people vulnerable to problem gambling”.
The legislation introduces a significant ban on broadcasting gambling ads on television and radio from 5:30 am to 9:00 pm.
It also involves the regulation of social media advertising so that users will only see gambling advertising if they are opt-in to receive them and give their approval.
Mr Browne went on to say how even children can carry a casino on their phone and emphasised how crucial it is to “have a robust regulatory framework with public safety as a cornerstone”.
He also highlighted how people with “exemplary lives” can nevertheless resort to acting in unsavoury ways just to feed their gambling addiction.
The legislation will also involve the creation of an “appropriately empowered regulatory body” that will license operators and impose not only at which times gambling advertising can be broadcast but also where they are broadcast, as well as their length and regularity.
Operators must balance interests and considerations
Mandatory contributions from casino operators will also finance a social impact fund.
Minister Browne noted that casino operators must balance “interests and considerations” for a massively profitable industry worth more than €6 billion a year and that the new legislation will provide a “clear framework for operators and for consumers”.
Many have expressed their views on the topic, offering some damning facts and statistics.
Social Democrats spokesman Gary Gannon also chimed in on the issue, asserting that Ireland has “largely let the gambling industry run rampant”.
Gannon highlighted that the few restrictions in place are too often disregarded and unenforced.
He explained that banning casinos “led to private members-only clubs being established, which are effectively casinos with an entrance fee.”
Gannon also pointed out that “anyone can easily walk past their nearest bookie” to find out how well the ban on displaying terms or odds for a bet on a particular match has worked out.
Thomas Gould of Sinn Féin expressed concern over the “potentially 55,000 people” who engage in “harmful gambling behaviour”.
He said it was a “shocking statistic” that one in five young people is at risk of harmful gambling.
Independent Wexford TD Verona Murphy pointed out the remarkable statistic that “60 per cent of the gambling industry’s profits in the UK come from 5 per cent of its customers”.
Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill reflected on how the legislation aimed to protect children up to 18 years of age.
“Research shows that many people, particularly young men, can remain vulnerable up to that age,” and added that the point “has been highlighted by those working in gambling addiction”.
Gino Kenny from People Before Profit declared that “there should be a blanket ban on gambling companies advertising their industry”.
He also highlighted the “socioeconomic factor to gambling and how “people with problematic use come from a poorer socioeconomic background” and therefore can lose their wages “literally in seconds”.
Furthermore, Independent Louth TD Peter Fitzpatrick underlined some significant statistics on the matter, citing the Health Research Board’s report. The report found that approximately 90,000 adults are low-risk gamblers, 35,000 are moderate-risk gamblers, and 12,000 adults are problem gamblers “whose gambling has negative consequences and entail a possible loss of control”.