Betting shops face crackdown on illegal advertising during major sporting tournaments

Dublin City Council to take test case to stop betting companies from exploiting planning loophole

Betting companies are facing a crackdown on the use of illegal gambling advertising banners during major sporting tournaments, following a decision by Dublin City Council to initiate a test case against the practice.

Councillors have accused betting companies of using a loophole in planning laws to erect illegal advertising banners on their shops to “exploit” vulnerable and “marginalised communities” by encouraging betting on certain sporting events such as World Cup matches or high profile horse racing festivals.

Current planning legislation gives property owners four weeks to comply with local authority orders to remove any illegal banners from their premises, generally allowing them to retain the illegal signage for the full duration of a competition, without penalty.

The council’s planning department has now agreed to “go straight to legal action in respect of the next suitable case that comes before Dublin City Council relating to a banner erected on a betting shop advertising betting services”.


The case will argue there is a “significant urgency” to address the practices of “advertising gambling services” that should allow it to set aside the four weeks and take immediate action against betting companies.

Green Party councillor Janet Horner said vulnerable people were being “exploited by completely moral-less gambling organisations” in the most cynical manner.

“I think it’s outrageous they do this knowing that they are exploiting a planning loophole”, she said.

“Most recently for the Rugby World Cup there was advertising all over the front of the betting shops. I put in the complaints, I’m sure other people put in the complaints, and they had four weeks to take it down, which happens to be to be the exact length of time of most established sports tournaments. The banner has done its job, and done its damage, in the time they have been given by the planning legislation to remove it.”

Labour councillor Declan Meenagh, said this type of advertising was particularly difficult for problem gamblers to ignore. “These are massive big companies and they are making their money from the small percentage of people with gambling problems. I think we should really crack down on it hard.”

Fine Gael councillor Ray McAdam said the hospitality industry was guilty of using similar tactics, particularly around the use of large alcohol advertising banners. “We need to have a zero tolerance approach to it, across whoever is doing it”.

The test case would establish whether the council could take “urgent action” to remove the banners or if new legislation needs to be drafted to close the loophole.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times