The CEO of Racecourse Media Group (RMG) has been quoted in Irish media as predicting potentially dire outcomes for Irish horse racing should the country adopt significant restrictions on betting advertising.
According to The Irish Times, Martin Stevenson commented on the impact an advertising ban could have on the operations of its Racing TV holding, saying that such a move would “likely mean that it isn’t viable to continue broadcasting in Ireland”.
Racing TV is the media rights holder to racing from all 26 of Ireland’s racecourses as well as 35 British venues – including high-profile tracks such as Aintree and Cheltenham – distributing feeds to paying individual subscribers as well as businesses such as pubs and hotels.
The Irish Times has further reported that Stevenson believes a proposed ban on pre-watershed betting advertising in Ireland would force RMG to move its Irish coverage to a different channel and rely more heavily on Sky.
This would in turn drive up costs for the racing media rights holder and distributor, headquartered in London, which RMG believes is not a viable option for its business.
The domino effect would then continue, he argued, with reduced TV coverage limiting public interest in racing which would subsequently impact the finances of both the sport and businesses which benefit from its broadcast, such as pubs.
“TV coverage is the lifeblood for any sport and the damage that the loss of these channels in Ireland might cause the successful Irish racing industry is of real concern,” he said.
Ireland is currently moving forward with regulatory reform, something which many advocates have been calling for for over a decade to modernise the country’s more than gambling laws which date back to acts from 1956, 1931 and 1929.
The Gambling Regulation Bill was signed off by cabinet, drafted by Justice Minister James Browne, in November 2022 and is currently in the fourth stage of the Dáil Éireann, the lower house of Ireland’s Oireachtas parliament.
Key provisions of the act include the establishment of the Gambling Regulatory Authority (GRA) and a Social Impact Fund (SIF) – backed by financial contributions from operators to support harm reduction and treatment – and a national self-exclusion register.
However, some politicians and reform advocates have called for greater advertising restrictions to be incorporated into the legislation. The Irish Labour Party, albeit a fringe force in Irish politics, has been vocal in its support for such a move.
“The gambling industry has worked hard to create a strong link in our minds between major sports events and betting,” Senator Mark Wall, the Irish Labour Party’s Sports Spokesperson, said back in March.
“Problem gambling is a behavioural addiction which is what these ads feed off. These ads are pushing people to gamble and there are no controls in place to protect those who are vulnerable to addiction.”
The Labour Party is not the only political stakeholder to call for a ban, however. President Micheal D Higgins – a former member of the Labour Party – has echoed this sentiment in the past, as have former Paddy Power executives Stewart Kenny (Chief Executive) and Fintan Drury (Chairman), the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and Gaelic Players Association (GPA).