Ban on gambling ads could be introduced ‘relatively quickly’ – Kelly

Labour leader says effects of addiction often hidden until it’s ‘too late’

Labour  Party leader Alan Kelly said €1.36 billion had been lost by gamblers to gambling firms last year. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Labour Party leader Alan Kelly said €1.36 billion had been lost by gamblers to gambling firms last year. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

A ban on gambling advertising could be introduced relatively quickly, Labour Party leader Alan Kelly said, as he told the Taoiseach that the Oireachtas needs to deal urgently with this “scourge”.

Mr Kelly asked Micheál Martin in the Dáil to support the Bill to be introduced by Labour Senator Mark Wall for a ban, he said “the advertising that’s out there is incredible. It never stops. It brings people back in who have problems of addiction.”

He said €1.36 billion had been lost by gamblers to gambling firms last year.

“That’s €300 per person, but we all know that a larger amount of money is lost by a small amount of people.

“If we do not deal with this issue we are going to continue to have significant problems when it comes to mental health issues and even suicide. The impact that has on families are often hidden until it’s too late.”

In the wake of comments by President Michael D Higgins warning about the “scourge” of gambling advertising, Mr Kelly said the effect of this addiction was often hidden until it’s “too late”.

Mr Martin said the Government would consider the Labour party’s proposals.

He agreed that the legal framework governing the gambling industry was “weak” but said the new gambling regulator would not be fully operational until 2023.

He suggested an all-party committee to take “a broader look at the legislation”.

Mr Kelly said he should not have to explain to his 11-year-old daughter what in-game betting was when watching the European Championships final.

Mr Kelly praised a Prime Time programme that featured GAA stars who had “highlighted their issues and been very open about their concerns and what happened to themselves”.

The Labour leader warned that in future Reeling in the Years programmes from 2021 or 2020, people would be amazed “that we were allowing such advertisements on our TV, radio, print and online”.

The promised gambling regulator was taking too long, he said, calling for an interim ban on gambling advertisements across all social media, print media and broadcast media.

“We could do this relatively quickly. Other countries have done it, we’re behind on this,” Mr Kelly said.

Mr Martin said that Minister of State James Browne was looking at reform of the legislation and said the focus of the regulator would be on public safety and wellbeing and would deal with gambling online and in person.

“The regulator would have the powers to regulate advertising both online and through more traditional mediums,” Mr Martin said.

“The pathway is that it would be fully operational in early 2023.”

The regulator will have enforcement power for licensing and will take action where individual operators are failing to follow rules and regulations, the Taoiseach said, adding that it was hoped to have a chief executive designate for the office by the end of the year.

The key objective was to provide responsible and safer gambling, combatting problems such as addiction, which he described as a “terrible illness which can destroy families and destroy individuals”.

But he admitted: “We do need to stand back from the immediate legislation, look at the bigger picture around gambling and what can we do to both deal with the issue and support those who have the addiction.”