If enacted, the Gambling (Prohibition of Advertising) Bill 2021 would prohibit all forms of gambling advertising except sponsorship. The party said the bill would divorce the gambling industry from the everyday enjoyment of sports, politics and entertainment.
While Labour is in opposition, Minister for Public Health and Fine Gael TD Frankie Feighan has already said that he would support “the gist” of the bill, but said would need to read it before determining if he would back the bill itself.
“Gambling addiction is a silent scourge across the nation, which is why the Labour Party has published legislation to address this national problem,” said Labour’s spokesperson on sport, Senator Mark Wall, who co-introduced the bill with TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin.
“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.”
Wall said that the gambling industry has worked hard to create a strong link in the public’s minds between sports events and betting.
He described advertising around sports broadcasts as a bombardment, stating that 75.4% of broadcasts show at least one gambling advertisement, and that gambling ads are the most common type shown during televised sports and the 7th most common form of ad shown generally.
He went on to say that changes driven by the increased availability of gambling on mobile mean that anyone can now gamble any amount of money in an instant, whereas previously the need to go to a betting shop to gamble helped limit any potential damage.
Deputy Ó Ríordáin added: “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 pointed to evidence from the College of Psychiatrists in Ireland, demonstrating a connection between the high volume of betting advertisements and an increase in problem gambling amid lockdowns relating to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
“They see the consequences of gambling addiction on a daily basis and they have called for an immediate ban on all gambling advertising,” he said.
“That is what our legislation does, it is informed by medical professionals who are at the coalface of this particular public health issue.”
Ó Ríordáin called upon the public of Ireland to share its experiences of gambling and the targeted advertising they receive from the industry with government, in order to inform on how to “break the link between the enjoyment of sports and betting once and for all.”
In a Dáil Éireann debate today on addiction and homelessness, leader of the Labour Party Alan Kelly said: “During the pandemic, I can guarantee we will see a crisis due to gambling because people are spending so much time isolated, on their own or in family settings. It is so deadly dangerous. It needs to be fully regulated and advertising needs to be dealt with.”
Kelly asked Feighan if he would support the bill, and said that Wall and Ó Ríordáin would consider amendments to their legislation.
“I have not seen the Bill, but I would support its gist,” the Minister responded. “I do not know what is in the Bill, but its mood is something of which I would be supportive.”
Deputy Thomas Gould added concerns for Ireland’s population of young people, stating that: “We see from data from the European school survey that Irish males aged between 15 and 16-years old have more than double the problem gambling rate of the general population.”
In 2019, Minister of State David Stanton revealed that the creation of a new gambling regulator in Ireland would take place over a period of around 18 months.
In September last year, it was subsequently revealed that the launch of the regulator would be pushed back until at least 2021.