Ireland’s President Michael Higgins has called for a ban on gambling advertising during televised sporting events in a bid to help safeguard sports in the country.
Higgins said he is keen to protect the “integrity” of Irish sport and removing ads from live broadcasts would help to switch focus away from gambling.
In addition, Higgins, who is elected but whose role is largely ceremonial, said dropping live ads would help tackle problem gambling in Ireland, saying that the country should not “ignore” such problems.
Earlier this year the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) voted to ban all sponsorship from the sector following a spike in problem gambling issues among players. At the time, players union representative Alan Kerins revealed that of the 77 athletes who requested counselling services last year, 15% of them were for gambling-related issues.
“I’m very concerned about gambling for example, which if I had my way, I wouldn’t have advertising of any access to gambling platforms in sport at all,” Higgins said in an interview with RTÉ Radio One.
“I really worry when I read cases of people who have come through [gambling] problems. I think in a way we should protect our sports by keeping them free from this kind of stuff.
“I just think [sport] should be protected from it. There is no one being heavy about it.”
President Higgins also spoke about how education from an early age can prevent people from developing gambling problems, but also said more must be done to tackle such issues.
“What you can do is through education obviously, through the school systems,” Higgins said.
“As well as that, we do need, and it’s not for me as President [to do something] as I’m no influence except to say what I think, is that the integrity of sport means having care for everyone who participates.
“Having care for everyone who participates means not exposing them when in fact they are vulnerable. How you deal with vulnerabilities is by preparing them of course.
“But you can’t do everything through education. For too long in Ireland we often ignore problems that are staring us in the face.”
Advertising during live sport broadcasts has become a subject of much debate in recent months, with Australia having introduced a ban.
The ban is active between 5am and 8.30pm each day. Gambling promotions are prohibited from five minutes before the start of an event until five minutes after.
Last month, Italy also announced a blanket ban on all betting ads. Maarten Haijer, secretary general of the European Gaming and Betting Association, branded the ban “counterproductive”.
Image: Irish Defence Forces