Call for gam­bling ad­verts to be re­stricted

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - RUAIDHRÍ CROKE

The amount of gam­bling ad­ver­tis­ing in sport is be­com­ing prob­lem­atic for fans, and in par­tic­u­lar chil­dren, ac­cord­ing to lead­ing fig­ures in the book­mak­ing in­dus­try and prob­lem gam­bling ser­vices in Ire­land.

These calls come as leg­is­la­tion around the in­dus­try con­tin­ues to stall.

Ad­verts for in-play odds, free bets and pro­mo­tions take up a huge part of the com­mer­cial space in sport – and in par­tic­u­lar foot­ball – and it is lead­ing to calls for, at the very least, a wa­ter­shed ban to be im­ple­mented.

Paddy Power co-founder and for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive Ste­wart Kenny, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Prob­lem Gam­bling Ire­land Barry Grant and Tony O’Reilly, gam­bling ad­dic­tion coun­sel­lor and co-au­thor of Tony10 – which charts his de­scent into prob­lem gam­bling, re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and a prison sen­tence – have all told The Ir­ish Times that gam­bling ser­vices should not be ad­ver­tised dur­ing live sport­ing events.

In the UK the Labour Party has called for a wa­ter­shed ban to be in­tro­duced for gam­bling ad­ver­tis­ing, in the same way that leg­is­la­tion in Aus­tralia re­cently banned all bet­ting ad­verts dur­ing live sport­ing events be­tween 5am and 8.30pm. In Italy a com­plete blan­ket ban on gam­bling prod­ucts – due to come into place from Jan­uary 1st 2019 – has been met with huge re­sis­tance.

On­line losses

Ire­land cur­rently has the third high­est rate of on­line losses per capita around the world (only Aus­tralia and Sin­ga­pore have more) but the gam­bling in­dus­try in this coun­try is still self-reg­u­lat­ing.

Mean­while, the leg­is­la­tion has re­mained the same since the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Bet­ting Act of 1931 and the Gam­ing and Lot­ter­ies Act of 1956 – which states that the max­i­mum stake that can be placed in an ar­cade is six­pence and the max­i­mum pay­out is 10 shillings.

A new Gam­bling Con­trol Bill has been de­layed in the Dáil since 2013 with only some small de­vel­op­ments made this year as the work­ing group, headed by Min­is­ter of State for Equal­ity, Im­mi­gra­tion and In­te­gra­tion David Stan­ton, say they will present a pro­posal to gov­ern­ment by the end of this year.

Wa­ter­shed ban

When asked by The Ir­ish Times ifa wa­ter­shed ban would be a con­sid­er­a­tion in the work­ing group’s pro­posal to gov­ern­ment, a spokesper­son for Min­is­ter Stan­ton said: “The is­sue of ad­ver­tis­ing gam­bling ser­vices, and of re­lated spon­sor­ship and pro­mo­tional ac­tiv­i­ties will be ad­dressed in the re­vised Gen­eral Scheme of the Gam­bling Con­trol Bill.”

O’Reilly, whose book tells the story of his jour­ney from a ¤1 bet to a to­tal spend of ¤10 mil­lion, ¤1.75 mil­lion of which was stolen from An Post and re­sulted in a prison sen­tence, be­lieves that gam­bling is now such a part of the cul­ture in Ire­land that, in some ways, the horse has bolted.

“Gam­bling, a bit like al­co­hol in Ire­land, is al­ways go­ing to be there be­cause it’s in­grained in our so­ci­ety,” he says. “I think what we can do is ed­u­cate and that’s what I was try­ing to do with the book. I have no prob­lem with book­ies. The one thing I would hope is that when peo­ple get to the point where they have fallen in a prob­lem and they can’t take re­spon­si­bil­ity them­selves that you’d hope the leg­is­la­tion would pro­vide safe­guards that these or­gan­i­sa­tions have to do some­thing to pro­tect the play­ers.”

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