Ban gambling advertising in sport, suggests President Higgins

Intervention likely to raise eyebrows with presidential election looming in the autumn

President Michael D Higgins  at Croke Park on Saturday. Speaking in the stadium on Sunday, the President said he was “very concerned about gambling” in sport. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

President Michael D Higgins at Croke Park on Saturday. Speaking in the stadium on Sunday, the President said he was “very concerned about gambling” in sport. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

President Michael D Higgins has said he is troubled over the issue of gambling in sport – and that gambling platforms should not be allowed access to advertising in sports.

Speaking at Croke Park at the All-Ireland hurling semi-final between Limerick and Cork, Mr Higgins said he was “very concerned about gambling” in sport.

“If I had my way, I wouldn’t have advertising or any access to gambling platforms in sport at all. I really worry when I read the cases,” he told RTÉ Radio.

By convention, the president of Ireland does not intervene in policy matters such as gambling, so Mr Higgins’s intervention is likely to raise eyebrows – especially with a presidential election looming in the autumn.

The President referenced a recent visit to a treatment centre in Co Mayo where he drew attention to the amount of advertising for gambling websites that is broadcast during TV sports programmes.

“I visited the Hope House in Mayo recently who have been a great assistance to some people who have got over what is, hopefully, a terrible temporary problem.

‘Protect our sports’

“I think in a way we should protect our sports of keeping them free from this kind of stuff,” he said.

“We need to protect our sports more,” he said, repeating his concerns about the influence of gambling.

He referred to the need for more education about the dangers of gambling, but added: “You can’t do everything through education.”

“I just think it should be protected from it. There is no one being heavy about it. What you can do is through education, obviously, through the school systems.

“As well as that, we do need, and it’s not for me as President as I’m no influence except to say what I think, is that the integrity of sport means having care for everyone who participates,” Mr Higgins said.

‘They are vulnerable’

“Having care for everyone who participates means not exposing them when in fact they are vulnerable. How you deal with vulnerabilities is by preparing them of course.

“But you can’t do everything through education. For too long in Ireland we often ignore problems that are staring us in the face,” he said.

A long-awaited Bill to regulate gambling, the Gambling Control Bill, is still being prepared by the Department of Justice – five years after the then government approved its general scheme.

Under the Government proposals, a gambling regulatory authority is to be established. There is also a Fianna Fáil Private Members’ Bill on gambling before the Oireachtas, but neither the Government Bill nor the Fianna Fáil Bill are expected to progress in the near future.