Irish President addresses ‘serious questions’ on gambling advertising

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins has issued a statement regarding sports betting advertising, arguing that there are ‘serious questions’ to be addressed surrounding the issue, as his country embarks on a regulatory overhaul of the sector.

The statement follows Higgins’ appearance at a 34-unit gambling rehabilitation centre in Wicklow operated by the Tiglin charity earlier this month, where he also discussed the issue of gambling-related issues and criticised the number of gambling advertisements on television.

His comments primarily addressed sports betting advertising, a topic that the Irish Labour Party – of which Higgins was a member until his election as President in 2011 – has raised in the Irish parliament, the Dáil Éireann, throughout the year.

“I welcome the fact that the debate on sports gambling advertising has now been taken up in the public discourse,” Higgins’ statement read.

“Earlier this month, having met with people that have overcome addictions of various kinds, I spoke of the scourge of sports gambling and the dangerous gambling advertisements, which continue to cause so much damage to families and individuals.

“When I spoke at Tiglin, I suggested that nobody can accept that the tokenistic ‘small print’ warnings and invitations to be ‘responsible’ are in any way in proportion to the possible damage being inflicted by the lure of sports gambling ads.”

Launched in February of this year, the Irish Labour Party’s Gambling (Prohibition of Advertising) Bill 2021 will introduce a blanket ban on gambling advertising on television if successfully passed through both the lower and upper houses of the Oireachtas.

Meanwhile, two of Ireland’s leading sports authorities – the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and Gaelic Players Association (GPA) – have both called for a severing of ties between the sports industry and the betting and gaming sector, including a ban on gambling advertising. 

Jennifer Rogers, the Player Welfare Manager at the GPA, identified a betting advertising ban during fixtures as a notion which the organisation would be ‘advocating strongly’.

However, although the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has introduced a ban on betting sponsorships, the League of Ireland’s Mark Scanlon identified the issue as an ‘internal’ matter to be addressed by clubs themselves.

The President continued: “There are serious questions, ones that are surely in the public interest to have answered, as to how such a high degree of saturation of the media landscape by sports betting advertisements has arisen, when the evidence of the damage being inflicted is so obvious and should be a concern to us all.”

Higgins’ statement follows comments made by Stewart Kenny, one of the co-founders and former Chief Executive of international bookmaker Paddy Power, just last week.

Speaking to RTE, Kenny argued that regulatory shortcomings and increased mobilisation of betting products had led to gambling becoming a ‘massive social problem’ in Ireland.

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