Ireland Bill Calls for Prison Time, €250k Penalty in Blanket Gambling Ad Ban Push

  • The draft bill from the Labour Party includes a ban on gambling sponsorship in sports
  • A public consultation is taking place before the submission of the bill to parliament
  • Sporting bodies in the country have also been calling for tighter rules on gambling ads
  • Ireland has about 40,000 gambling addicts and gambling spend was €9.8bn in 2019
“stop ads” painted on a hand
The Labour Party in Ireland has released a draft bill that calls for a blanket ban on gambling-related advertising with harsh penalties for violators. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Labour Party draft bill

Ireland’s Labour Party is pushing for a total ban on advertising by gambling companies through a new draft bill. This ban would stop gambling-related sponsorship in the Irish sports world, with proponents of the bill citing public health reasons for the crackdown. Labour Party Senator Mark Wall tweeted out details of the draft bill on Wednesday:

The Gambling (Prohibition of Advertising) Bill 2021 proposes that individuals who disregard the advertising ban could face a prison sentence of up to three years. A fine of €250,000 ($302,000) would also be an option in certain situations. Repeat offenders would face possible additional fines of up to €2,000 ($2,416) for every subsequent day that the offenses continue. If a corporation commits an offense, company directors and managers could be open to conviction.

Only certain exceptions to the ban would be permitted under this proposal. The bill does not consider amusement machines, bingo, or participation in the lottery to be forms of gambling. The ban would also not apply to the advertising of certain not-for-profit gambling events. Dog and horse racing tracks would still be able to offer printed advertising for distribution only at the facility and relating just to the races taking place on that day.

A public consultation survey regarding the draft bill is up, with the Labour Party then planning to introduce the final bill into the parliament. If the legislation gets the green light, it will take effect six months following its enactment.

Calls to curtail gambling advertising

This bill comes only a few days after two major sports organizations in Ireland called for stricter rules regarding gambling advertising. The Gaelic Players Association (GPA) and Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) both requested a blanket ban on the airing of gambling-related ads during live sports. This would be similar to the “whistle-to-whistle” ban that is already in place in the UK.

gambling addiction is a silent scourge across the nation”

Senator Wall explained the importance of the proposed legislation, saying: “Gambling addiction is a silent scourge across the nation, which is why the Labour Party has published legislation to address this national problem.”

With people having the ability to quickly place bets through their smartphones, Wall believes that the legislation is “more important now than ever”.

A growing issue

Problem gambling is an issue that is getting more and more attention in Ireland. According to Senator Wall, about 40,000 people in the country are currently dealing with gambling addiction. He also said that of those people who start gambling, one in eight will develop an addiction.

during the pandemic, I can guarantee we will see a crisis due to gambling”

Labour Party TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin wants adequate supports to be in place to help gambling addicts. During a parliamentary debate on Thursday, Labour Party leader Alan Kelly called for the proper regulation of gambling in Ireland and the curtailment of advertising. He said: “During the pandemic, I can guarantee we will see a crisis due to gambling because people are spending so much time isolated.”

Proponents of the bill stated that up to 75.4% of sports broadcasts in the country contain at least a single gambling-related ad. Gambling ads are also supposedly the seventh-most-common type of ad on Irish television. In 2019, gambling spend in Ireland was reportedly €9.8bn ($11.8bn), the seventh-highest in the world and representing €379.51 ($458.45) per person.