Attitude softening in Government about proposed gambling advertising ban

Racing broadcasters have threatened to quit Irish market if they do not get exemption from ban

A potential softening of attitude by the Government in relation to a proposed ban on gambling advertising that threatens TV coverage of Irish racing has been indicated by a Minister.

Martin Heydon, Fine Gael Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine, has said a “common sense approach” can be adopted in relation concerns within racing about new gambling legislation being introduced by junior minster James Browne.

Part of minister Browne’s long-awaited gambling Bill proposes a ban on advertising between 5.30am and 9pm.

Both the subscription channel Racing TV, which holds home-viewing rights to Irish racing until 2029, and Sky Sports Racing have threatened to quit the Irish market if they don’t get an exemption from the ban. They argue it would make their businesses in Ireland unviable.


Industry groups have warned of a serious impact on the industry here if pictures are not available.

The Irish Racehorse Trainers Association has warned of “very substantial” job losses due to a cut in the number of horses in training with owners not being able to watch live racing.

Others have argued a ban on pictures will not address problem gambling and instead could drive punters to either betting shops or sign up with online bookmakers in order to see live pictures.

So far, Browne has not moved on his position and said he doesn’t believe punters here won’t be able to watch Irish racing.

Addressing an Association of Irish Racehorse Owners event recently, Martin Heydon, who represents south Kildare, said he would like to see “conciliatory dialogue” on the matter.

“I know many of you also have also concerns about the gambling legislation that is currently before the Oireachtas,” he said.

“It is important that when introducing any legislation, Government considers any possible unintended consequences. I want to see us get the balance right between delivering on our ambitions while also not undermining a vital industry like racing which employs thousands of people across rural Ireland.

“I know how important it is for owners to be able to watch their horses race when they cannot travel themselves. I firmly believe it is through further and conciliatory dialogue that we can ensure a common-sense approach is taken,” he added.

The proposed legislation is due before the Dáil soon although there is some speculation that it could be pushed out to January due to pressure of business.

Champion trainer Willie Mullins is among leading figures to have expressed alarm at the proposed advertising ban, arguing that racing will be caught up in what is essentially a gambling industry problem.

Earlier this year a Deloitte report for Horse Racing Ireland said racing and breeding in this country supported directly or indirectly 30,350 jobs in 2022. It also generated €2.46 billion to the Irish economy in direct and stimulated expenditure, up 34 per cent on 2016.

It claimed that 9,400 of jobs are in the core industry, defined as “making their living as a direct or indirect result from the racing and breeding industry.” It also noted that €264 million was spent by owners in training and running their horses in 2022.

It was announced in the budget earlier this month that racing will receive €76 million in State funding in 2024, a 4.4 per cent increase on 2023.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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