Use of ex-GAA stars as brand ambassadors for betting companies is ‘regressive’

Shane Cassells says use of stars could draw young people into gambling

Senator Shane Cassels

The recruitment of former GAA stars such as Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly as “brand ambassadors” for betting companies is regressive and should not happen, a Fianna Fáil Senator has claimed.

Senator Shane Cassells criticised the practice of using GAA stars for online articles that then point consumers to the live betting odds for Gaelic and hurling matches that weekend.

He said he was particularly concerned that the use by betting companies of such role models could draw teenagers and younger people into gambling.

“Gambling companies are targeting young people in particular from 13 to 17 years with micro-targeted adverts,” said Mr Cassells.


“They are hooking people like a drug addict and getting them online as well to get gambling accounts.

“We saw the divisive scenario last week of GAA sports stars such as Diarmuid Connolly acting as a brand ambassador for major betting companies such as BoyleSports but when that story appears online and you hover your thumb over the ad for the betting company, it brings you to the live betting odds for games that weekend. That was an article about underage football. That shows you how these platforms are working hand in glove with major players such as bookies and gambling companies.”

Former Dublin footballer Diarmuid Connolly. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

When asked why successive governments such as his own had taken decades to update gambling laws and establish a gambling regulator, Mr Cassells said that his colleague, Minister for State James Browne would have a regulator in place by the end of the year with proper staff back-up. He said it was urgently needed.

Mr Cassells was speaking at a media event where Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators were calling for tougher regulation of social media and online platforms.

“We do have the wild west when it comes to online gambling. A number of years ago we were talking about a casino being built in Tipperary and people being up in arms about it.

“How redundant is that now. A physical building? You must be joking. Nowadays everybody is walking with a casino in their pocket [he showed his mobile phone].”

Asked if GAA stars should refrain from acting as brand ambassadors for betting companies, he said: “Absolutely. We have seen in the past Paddy Power take out sponsorship on hurls and the GAA acted very decisively and banned that. The GAA is broader than a sporting organisation. It is a society movement. We have to acknowledge there is a huge problem with gambling and in particular in sporting circles.”

He said he thought Connolly was a fine ambassador for Irish sport and Irish life. “If his name is associated with an online article that leads you to a link for online odds that weekend, that is hugely regressive.”

Former Donegal GAA star Kevin Cassidy has also been a brand ambassador for Boylesports.

Among the brand ambassadors for Paddy Power are former Kerry star Aidan O’Mahony; former Waterford hurler John Mullane; former Meath GAA star Colm O’Rourke; and former Tyrone footballer Owen Mulligan.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times