Proposed new gambling laws could block English Premier League football and other live sports broadcasts to the Republic, bookmakers warn.
The Oireachtas is debating the Gambling Regulation Bill, 2022, which will update the regime governing the Republic’s multibillion-euro betting business.
Bookmakers warn that a provision banning gambling advertising from 5.30am to 9.30pm could potentially block live sports broadcasts from other jurisdictions, including Premier League football.
Chairwoman of the Irish Bookmakers’ Association (IBA) Sharon Byrne wrote to Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, and her Minister of State James Browne, warning that parts of the Bill create confusion. Ms Byrne noted that the language of section 141(1) would “if not amended, prevent the broadcasting of live sport in Ireland from other jurisdictions where gambling advertising is visible”.
She added that it raises the possibility that Premier League football, where gambling companies’ adverts and logos are regularly displayed and visible, would not be screened.
While the IBA highlights the Premier League, industry figures say the provision could also hit broadcasts of high-profile race meetings, including the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals, or any overseas event where betting adverts are visible to viewers.
Section 141 (1) of the Bill states: “A person shall not knowingly advertise, or cause another person to advertise, a relevant gambling activity on television, radio or an on-demand audiovisual media service between the hours of 5:30am and 9:30pm.”
The broadly drafted nature of the provision sparked the bookies’ concern. Most sports events happen and are broadcast live before 9:30pm while many staged outside the Republic have visible gambling adverts.
The law will create a new licensing regime and create a new agency, the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland. Mr Browne last year announced Anne Marie Caulfield as chief executive designate of the new body. She is an experienced civil servant who was previously director of the Residential Tenancies Board.
The IBA, which represents most Irish bookmakers from independents to corporate players, says it has consistently supported the Gambling Regulation Bill. However, the group warns that sections of the law as drafted will result in “suboptimal protection to consumers or will create confusion and future challenges” to the legislation.
Its letter notes that the definition of inducements in the Bill is legally uncertain and warns that this could spark legal challenges unless it is addressed.
Similarly, the association argues that provisions governing the closure of inactive online betting accounts, maximum stakes and payouts, could have an unintentional negative impact on customers.
“This Bill represents a defining moment in the regulation of gambling in Ireland and it is vital that the legislative framework is clear, unambiguous, and with effective consumer protections at its core,” said Ms Byrne.
The association understands that the Department of Justice may have been under pressure to begin the committee stage in the Dáil before the summer recess, she said, but stressed that officials have an opportunity to address issues raised by all stakeholders before the Bill is passed.
“The IBA remains eager to see the proposed authority established and has no desire the weaken the power afforded to its incoming chief executive officer and her team,” she said.