Irish Labour Party launches Bill targeting gambling advertising

The Irish Labour Party has launched draft legislation with the intention of banning the advertisement of gambling, following similar calls by sporting bodies.

If successful, the Party’s Gambling (Prohibition of Advertising) Bill 2021, would ban all gambling advertising in Ireland, separating the gaming industry from sports and entertainment.

“Gambling addiction is a silent scourge across the nation, which is why the Labour Party has published legislation to address this national problem,” said Senator Mark Wall, the Labour Party’s Spokesperson for Sport.

“In 2019, Ireland had the 7th highest gambling spend in the world at €9.8 billion (or €379.51 per head). Our legislation to #BeatTheAds will prevent unnecessary encouragement of gambling – banning all gambling ads across the media, on public transport, billboards and online outlets.

“The gambling industry has worked particularly hard to create a strong link in our minds between major sports events and betting. Watching a match, we are bombarded with reminders to download gambling apps, or put a few bob on the score. 

“In broadcast media alone, 75.4% of sporting broadcasts show at least one gambling advertisement. In fact, gambling ads are the most common during sporting events televised in Ireland, and the 7th most common form of ad shown in general.”

The move follows calls for advertising bans by two of Ireland’s leading sporting authorities, the Gaelic Players’ Association (GPA) and the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).

Both the GAA and GPA have implemented independent bans on gambling advertising within Gaelic football and hurling, with the GPA’s Jennifer Rogers stating that the organisation would be ‘advocating strongly’ for tighter regulation.

Colin Regan, Community and Health Manager of the GAA, has argued for an alliance between Ireland’s various sporting bodies and for greater government intervention to end the presence of gambling advertising.

“This legislation is more important now than ever,” Senator Wall continued. “There have been big changes in recent years in the ease with which people can gamble due to our  smartphones. 

“Whereas previously there was some limit to the damage that could be caused as a result of people having to go to betting shops, now anyone can gamble any amount of money on their phone in an instant.

“The stresses of COVID-19 have challenged the resilience and coping strategies of us all but particularly individuals with addictions who are finding it even harder to continue in their recovery and avoid relapse.”

An overhaul of Ireland’s advertising regulations has been expected, after the Dáil introduced new legislation laying the foundations for substantial reform and modernisation.

Labour Party Deputy and Teachta Dála, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, said: “Gambling is an addiction and it should be treated as such. We’re introducing legislation to ban the manipulation carried out by the industry which is one step forward in addressing this issue. 

“This should be treated as a public health issue and we need to ensure that there are adequate supports in place to help those suffering from addiction.”

In addition to the GPA and GAA, the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland has also called for an ‘urgent ban’ on gambling advertising.

Ó Ríordáin added: “In its Gambling Disorder Position paper, the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland notes anecdotal information that indicates a concerning rise in gambling disorders referrals since COVID lockdowns due to isolation, with more opportunity to gamble while working from home and higher levels of targeted online advertising.

“They see the consequences of gambling addiction on a daily basis and they have called for an immediate ban on all gambling advertising. That is what our legislation does, it is informed by medical professionals who are at the coalface of this particular public health issue.

“We are now asking for the public to share their experiences of gambling and the targeted advertising that they receive from the industry. We want views on how we can break the link between the enjoyment of sports and betting once and for all.”

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