Gambling regulation bill in Ireland: Fears that the Premier League could be removed from Irish television have been eased

The bill, passed by Cabinet last year, would impose strict regulation on gambling advertising, with a tipping point – including online advertising – between 5.30am and 9pm.

Law Reform Minister James Browne is leading the introduction of a bill that has sparked major debate in Irish sporting circles amid fears that all sports with links to betting sponsorship will be banned from broadcasting when new regulations come into force in spring 2024 force.

The bill, passed by Cabinet last year, would impose strict regulation on gambling advertising, with a tipping point – including online advertising – between 5.30am and 9pm.

This led to claims from betting companies and sports authorities that horse racing TV channels may have to cease operations in Ireland, while there is a risk that Premier League football would be removed from our screens given the sponsorship deals many top clubs have have, also seemed real Great Britain has with betting companies.

The Paddy Power World Darts Championship, a staple of Christmas television, featured vibrant betting branding, while Katie Taylor’s fight against Chantelle Cameron in Dublin last month also had gambling advertising around the ring.

Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) and betting companies have expressed their deep concerns about the gambling regulation bill. In its current form, one could assume that any form of betting advertising appears to be blocked from broadcast.

There are fears that gambling advertising on football shirts and branding on the side of racetracks may breach the draft law, which could see the Premier League and Cheltenham Festival disappear from our screens.

The Bill establishes the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland (GRAI), a new statutory authority that will be responsible for the licensing and regulation of gambling services in Ireland.

This new legislation will repeal existing laws and streamline the approach to licensing and regulation of gambling in Ireland.

In September it was confirmed that there would be no specific exemptions for horse racing in the final draft of the bill after Minister Browne held meetings with concerned officials from HRI and the Association of Irish Racecourses.

This raised fears that sports associated with gambling sponsorship would not be able to be broadcast on a larger scale.

However, the minister says his proposals are aimed at betting advertising and not pre-existing sponsorship deals.

“Of course the government is not banning football matches on Irish television,” he told the Sunday world.

“Proper regulation of the gambling industry is long overdue and I am committed to implementing this legislation.

“There is no ban on any sport or the broadcasting of sports such as horse racing or Premier League games.

Fans can still watch Premier League games. Photo: Getty

“However, there will be a restriction banning advertising promoting gambling on television, radio and audiovisual media services between 5.30am and 9pm.

“This was a strong recommendation from the Oireachtas all-party justice committee and was then approved by Cabinet.

“For public health reasons we have restrictions on alcohol advertising. Tobacco advertising and sponsorship are also prohibited. The gaming industry cannot avoid reform or expect special status.

“I will reject any fear-mongering aimed at killing much-needed regulation and pass this public health legislation early in the new year.”

Minister Browne’s strong words come after betting companies warned of the extremely damaging impact the gambling regulation bill could have if sweeping changes are not made.

However, we expect the final draft will provide clearer guidance to ensure sports broadcasts can continue in Ireland, with the focus of the legislation on removing gambling advertising from our screens.

The bill will end betting advertising at sporting events and at any time between the proposed 15.5 hour window, but it will not block visual or even verbal references to bets or odds during a broadcast.

Therefore, the Paddy Power World Darts Championship can continue to be broadcast in Ireland and the display of pre-match odds on screen as part of studio analysis will also be permitted as it falls under a clause allowing the display of “factual information”. .

It also means that a game between West Ham and Aston Villa in the Premier League, where both teams are sponsored by betting companies, will not be blocked from our television screens.

Incitement to bet or any encouragement to bet may violate the new rules, but horse racing channels will be allowed to display odds before, during and after races. However, they are not permitted to use on-screen advertising from betting providers between races.

Government officials have met with the bosses of Sky Sports and Virgin Media Sport to reassure them that they will not be prevented from honoring broadcast contracts, which would have serious breach consequences and, more importantly, potentially catastrophic impact on their subscriber numbers can.

Sky Sports recently confirmed that they have signed a contract extension to broadcast most Premier League games in a record £6.7 billion deal that runs until 2029.

Not allowing Sky Ireland to broadcast matches in this country could have created a legal minefield for both the government and the broadcaster, but that confusion is likely to be cleared up soon.

The gambling regulation bill focuses on broadcasting restrictions and is expected to have no impact on advertising in print newspapers.

The National Lottery is not covered by the new legislation and remains regulated separately.

Source link