While the growth of online sports betting continues, so does the rising tide of opposition to the industry’s ads. We have written previously about the new Italian government’s fierce opposition to gambling ads, as well as the British Labor MPs who are itching to crack down on the sector. Now the Irish President Michael Higgins has added his voice to the debate.
Speaking in a radio interview on RTE’s Sunday Sport, he said: “If I had my way I wouldn’t have advertising of any gambling platforms in sport at all.”
Coming from the (largely ceremonial) president of a country that is famous for the thousands of punters who flock to the Cheltenham Festival each year, you might think Higgins’ word should be taken with a pinch of salt. But he was referring to the large number of recent high-profile cases, including Galway hurler Davy Glennon, who gambled away €70,000 of stolen money in betting shops and online virtual racing.
“I just think sport should be protected from it,” said Higgins, echoing the views of the Italian government and many commentators in the US who believe the legalization of sports betting will herald a surge in harmful betting ads in the country.
Higgins called for the potential problem to be tackled through education and the Irish school system. “For too long in Ireland,” he said, “we ignore problems that are staring us in the face.”
Although the president’s words will carry a lot of weight, there is unlikely to be any immediate action while Ireland’s legislators continue to wrestle with the Gambling Control Bill that could ultimately lead to restrictions on advertising.
“No-one is getting heavy about it,” said Higgins. “We just need to take action.”
Russian authorities are getting heavy
If there is no immediate action on the horizon in Ireland, there most certainly is in Russia. The situation in the country is simple: Online sports betting is allowed, but only through a few carefully selected, and presumably Kremlin-approved, companies
But Russia’s a huge country with a population of 144m. All those people need something to do and a large number of illegal bookmakers have emerged to satisfy the inevitable demand, frequently advertising heavily. Curacao-licensed operator Azino777 this week emerged as the country’s leading advertiser, outstripping even Coca-Cola.
But now Russia’s Youth Parliament leaders have called on the State Duma to force internet providers to restrict access to illegal casino advertising, citing the damage it can do to young people. They have also gone one step further, calling for those who promote such advertising, including some well-known rap stars, to be sentenced to “compulsory corrective works” and made to “suffer [for their] fraudulent actions.”
The Big Brother speak translates into giving the state power to block illegal casino advertising without a court order and send anyone who promotes it t0 a spell of hard labor in a Siberian gulag.
That might seem like a draconian punishment – and it does appear to be a few stops down the road from Michael Higgins’ position – but there is unquestionably a tide of opinion running against gambling advertising in many countries. With ads for tobacco and alcohol already banned in most countries, the future for gambling advertising looks bleak when its opponents eventually win an election. Not that winning an election is something the zealots of Russia’s Youth Parliament need to worry about.