Fears for Irish racing’s exposure if gambling ban on adverts passed by Government

Both specialist racing channels say they may be forced to stop broadcasting to Ireland

Although a ban on advertising contained in the proposed new Gambling Regulation Bill would have a relatively marginal impact on the upcoming €47 million per year media rights deal for Ireland’s racecourses, racing officials are concerned about implications for the sport’s exposure levels from such a move.

Both UK-based specialist racing channels, Racing TV (RTV), which covers day-to-day Irish action, and Sky Sports Racing, have said they may be forced to stop broadcasting in Ireland if a new watershed that bans gambling advertising between 5.30am and 9pm comes into force.

Both broadcasters have said such a move by the Government, which would prevent gambling adverts on live racing coverage, would make their home-to-view business unviable in Ireland and could result in race fans and punters here not being able to watch day-to-day coverage.

Proposed amendments to the long-awaited Bill are being considered before the legislation progresses to the final stage of Dáil consideration. But industry officials are hopeful changes can be implemented by the Government.


Chief executive of the Association of Irish Racecourses Paul Hensey said on Friday the body that represents Ireland’s 26 tracks is supportive of the objective to tackle problem gambling but noted how direct-to-home coverage on Racing TV is a subscription service.

“The fact, particularly with RTV, that it is behind a paywall, means people have made that decision to subscribe to that channel; they know what they’re subscribing to, they’re subscribing to racing and betting,” he said.

Direct-to-home pictures are a relatively small element of the controversial turnover-based five-year media rights deal AIR, negotiated with Satellite Information Services (SIS) and Racecourse Media Group (RMG) that was eventually signed up to by all 26 tracks. It runs from 2024 to the end of 2028.

Most revenue is generated through streaming and turnover from betting shops.

“If they [RTV and Sky] decide not to broadcast in Ireland that would have an impact on viewership here and then the betting on Irish racing. That said, SIS and Racing TV can sell those pictures to the UK and all over the world, wherever they decide to sell them, so the revenue will still come in on those pictures,” said Hensey.

He added: “I would be concerned about the next deal and when we go to tender on that for the next time around if they weren’t able to put bookmaker advertising on their channels. The bigger picture would be that Irish racing doesn’t get exposure in Ireland. If they didn’t broadcast here, it would affect people betting on the races, breeders, just general people that would have an interest in seeing Irish racing in Ireland. Not everybody watches racing from a betting point of view.”

One industry insider said they believed any proposed ban on gambling advertising was “not an issue at the moment” when it comes to terrestrial coverage of the sport on both RTÉ and Virgin Media.

A Horse Racing Ireland spokesperson said: “HRI has been in close contact with media companies in relation to the Gambling Regulation Bill, and recognise the concerns held. We will continue to work with Sky Sports and RMG over the coming weeks and months in an effort to find a solution with legislators around the relevant sections of the Bill.”

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column