Irish Labour Party introduces bill that would ban gambling advertising

The Irish Labour Party has published a piece of draft legislation that would impose a ban on all forms of gambling-related advertising in the country.

The bill, titled the Gambling (Prohibition of Advertising) Bill 2021, would prohibit all kinds of gambling advertising with the exception of sponsorship.

The new bill

According to the party, the proposal is intended to push the gambling industry away from the everyday enjoyment of entertainment, politics and sports.

Although Labour is currently in opposition, Minister for Public Health and Fine Gael TD Frankie Feighan has come out in support of “the gist” of the measure. However, he said he would need to read it properly before making a decision on supporting the entire proposal.

Publishing the Bill, Labour spokesperson on Sport Senator Mark Wall said: “Gambling addiction is a silent scourge across the nation, which is why the Labour Party has published legislation to address this national problem. 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.”

Evidence from the College of Psychiatrists in Ireland

Speaking about the legislation, Deputy 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.”

Ó Ríordáin cited evidence from the College of Psychiatrists in Ireland, which revealed a connection between the high volume of gambling advertisements and an increase in problem gambling amid the coronavirus lockdowns.

Ó Ríordáin went on to say: “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.”

The introduction of this legislation comes after a previous bill facilitated the formation of a new gambling regulator.

New gambling regulator on the horizon

In 2019, Minister of State David Stanton revealed that the creation of a new Irish gambling regulatory body would take place over a roughly 18 month period.

However, in September last year, it was announced that the launch of the new regulator would be delayed until at least 2021.

The introduction of a new regulator was just one part of the Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill 2019 which became law in December 2019 and came into full effect during December 2020.