Bill To Ban Gambling Ads In Ireland Advances

March 25, 2022
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​​​​​​​A bill to ban gambling advertising in Ireland will progress to the committee stage on March 29 after appearing to accrue government sympathy.

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A bill to ban gambling advertising in Ireland will progress to the committee stage on March 29 after appearing to accrue government sympathy.

If enacted, the Gambling (Prohibition of Advertising) Bill 2021 would place a ban on all gambling ads across digital, print and broadcast media, except for sponsorship.

The bill was introduced on April 19, 2021 by the opposition Labour Party, but had not made any progress until earlier this week. The committee stage it is advancing to is only the third of 11 stages the bill must survive before becoming law.

However, James Browne, the minister of state at the Department of Justice, attended the at times highly emotional debate on what he called an “important” bill.

Browne said the government is “fully supportive” of the motives behind the bill and as it is progressing its own comprehensive gambling legislation it supported a second stage reading.

“The debate on reforming gambling has been going on for a long time. It is time to bring that debate to a conclusion over the coming months and pass legislation that will address this core issue,” Browne said.

Just a day earlier on March 22, the Joint Committee on Justice held its second public hearing as part of its pre-legislative scrutiny of the General Scheme of the Gambling Regulation Bill.

During the second hearing, advertising had been a key concern, with Barry Grant, addiction counsellor and project manager at Extern Problem Gambling, calling for a complete ban.

Dr Helen McAvoy and Dr Ciara Reynolds from the Institute of Public Health recommend a phasing out of gambling industry sponsorship in sport.

Browne said both the debate and the hearings will inform the gambling regulation bill.

However, the government’s current plan is not for a full ad ban.

Its proposal in the gambling regulation bill is that advertising will fall under the scope of a new independent gambling regulator, which will provide standards for gambling operators.

“The authority will examine advertising in the context of the full range of activities of the gambling operators and it will be essential for operators to comply if they are to maintain their licence,” Browne said.

The regulator will be given the power to impose fines for code of conduct and regulatory breaches, block websites and even remove licences.

“It is the government's intention that the authority be empowered sufficiently to perform its role with efficiency and fairness, and that it will be sufficiently resourced to allow it to ground its decisions in a thorough understanding of the industry,” Browne said.

The Ministry of Justice recently told VIXIO that the new regulator is on track to be operational in 2023.

Sinn Féin, Ireland’s second-largest political party, has been demanding the immediate introduction of an independent gambling regulator through a gambling control bill, saying promises to regulate the industry have been made in the past to no avail.

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