On March 9th, Belgium announced a ban on gambling adverts across multiple media platforms, and Labour IE’s Mark Wall encourages Ireland to follow suit.
Belgium recently announced a clear ban on gambling advertisements across multiple platforms on July 1st in public spaces, media, and online advertising.
They don’t intend to stop there either – on January 1st 2025, advertising in stadiums will be banned, and three years later, on January 1st 2028, professional sponsors will be banned to safeguard minors from unintended influence seeing role models promoting betting sites.
Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne issued the statement: “The government is deeply concerned about the impact of the huge amounts of gambling advertising that our society is facing. And for those who want to get rid of their gambling addiction, the tsunami of gambling advertising is an additional problem.”
Furthermore, sponsorship is no longer tax deductible for gambling companies.
Senator Mark Wall’s Response
In response to this ban, Labour Party Senator Mark Wall said that Ireland must follow suit on the hardline ban that Belgium has introduced.
Wall issued the statement: “In recognition of the harm caused by advertising to those at risk of gambling addiction, Belgium has taken the brave move to ban all gambling ads from July of this year. Ireland must follow suit.
He added: “The gambling industry has worked hard to create a strong link in our minds between major sports events and betting. Problem gambling is a behavioural addiction which is what these ads feed off of. These ads are pushing people to gamble, and there are no controls in place to protect those who are vulnerable to addiction.
“The level of addiction and affliction in communities up and down this country demands serious action. We had this argument around the tobacco. Time is ticking. Let’s follow the Belgian lead and ban gambling ads in Ireland.”
Ireland’s Gambling Regulatory Bill
Currently, the Irish government are going through the process of issuing a comprehensive reform of the Gambling Act, which in its current state dates to 1956.
The Gambling Regulatory Bill is brought to cabinet by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee on behalf of James Browne, and intends to overhaul the laws around gambling advertisements in Ireland.
The bill has several stringent aspects, such as a blanket ban on social media advertising and the introduction of prison time for failing to protect children and vulnerable people.
The Act also bans advertising on TV and online between 5:30 AM – 9 PM each day with the intention of minimizing exposure of gambling ads to children.
It’s hoped to come into effect by mid-2023, and Mr Browne intends to bring a heavy hand down on any companies that slip through the loop. He has promised to request the ISP to block any online gambling company beyond the reach of the legislation.
Likelihood of Outright Ban Looks Shaky
Studies have found a strong correlation between advertising and gambling addiction, and in Ireland, where 49% of the population engages in some form of gambling, the benefits of a crackdown are clear.
However, the regulatory Act has still failed to include an outright ban on gambling advertisements, and Professor Colin O’Gara, the Head of Addiction Services at Saint John of God Hospital in Dublin, expressed concern over the manpower it would take to enact.
Additionally, a blanket ban on gambling ads seems unlikely from an economic standpoint, where we see tax revenues for gambling contribute to many daily services. While some more regulation may be welcome – such as with alcohol ads, which may not target young people – a ban may be considered an overstep by the government.
Many politicians have expressed unease and dissatisfaction with the current state of gambling regulations and pervasive workarounds by casinos and other gambling establishments. Closing some of these loopholes will protect citizens from less reputable iGaming companies.
Response from the Industry
While we’re yet to hear any direct responses to Wall’s statement, the regulatory Act itself has received favourable responses from betting companies and associates.
Dermot Heathcote at irishluck.ie commented: “We welcome the safeguards that will be brought into place by the Act. We have a commitment to upholding safe play in gambling and look forward to improving the environment for our customers.”
Despite the upcoming bill, most media outlets, such as RTE, still choose to continue to show gambling ads until the regulation bill comes into play, although they do have their own broad restrictions in place already.