Regulation of gambling advertising in focus: Oireachtas produces detailed paper
On 14 July 2022, Oireachtas Senior Parliamentary Researchers Eoin McLoughlin and Emily Heery published a research paper on the 'Regulation of Gambling Advertising'. It comes ahead of the publication of the forthcoming Gambling Regulation Bill and considers some of the key issues impacting gambling advertising in Ireland.
The paper follows on from the recent 'Report on Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of the General Scheme of the Gambling Regulation Bill – May 2022', produced by the parliamentary Joint Committee on Justice which put forward the following recommendations relevant to gambling advertising:
- That a pre-watershed ban be applied to all forms of gambling advertising
- That the potential decoupling of sports advertising from gambling advertising be evaluated, with a specific focus on young people
- That advertising codes developed by the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland (the GRAI) be applied equally to all operators.
The paper is of note for any interested stakeholders as it presents a thorough analysis of the key issues pertinent to gambling advertising, based on an extensive range of sources including a comparison of several jurisdictions. The researchers are part of the Oireachtas Library & Research service which provides "impartial research briefings" for Irish legislators.
The three key issues
In this bulletin, we take a look at the following three key issues explored in the paper. These stem from the Justice Committee's recommendations, and input from relevant gambling industry and health/public interest stakeholders.
- Balancing controls on gambling advertising
- The impact of gambling advertising in sport
- The exposure of vulnerable groups to advertising
Issue 1: Balancing controls on gambling advertising
Codes developed by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) and the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI), currently govern sponsorship, advertising and promotion by the gambling industry in Ireland. As set out under the General Scheme of the Gambling Regulation Bill, one of the core functions of the GRAI will be to develop safeguards to protect individuals from the harms associated with gambling through the regulation of gambling related advertising.
The paper notes that the Irish gambling industry has been proactive in introducing a safer gambling code in early 2022 to bolster the standards set by the BAI and ASAI, including a pre-watershed ban on Irish channels and a whistle-to-whistle ban on live sport (although it excludes horse and greyhound racing).
The researchers quote several industry stakeholders who have called for advertising regulation in Ireland to remain broadly in line with consumer offerings abroad, so as to discourage consumers turning to unregulated gambling providers in other jurisdictions.
A broad spectrum of regulation in other jurisdictions is also referenced - ranging from Italy, which currently has a blanket ban on all gambling advertising, to the United Kingdom, where there are comparatively fewer restrictions on gambling advertising.
The paper acknowledges the balance which needs to be struck in order to not unfairly disadvantage the regulated gambling entities in Ireland, versus unregulated entities based abroad, to which Irish consumers have online access.
Issue 2: Gambling advertising in sport
As noted above, the Justice Committee has recommended further evaluation of the decoupling of sports advertising from gambling advertising, with particular focus on advertisements aimed at young people.
In this context the researchers noted that health stakeholders have called for a complete ban on gambling advertisements within sport, and the separation of sports betting from more high-frequency casino-style gaming.
The paper outlines how industry stakeholders have highlighted the problems with such measures from their perspective, in particular the likely detrimental impact on the funding of sports such as horseracing and greyhound racing, and the adverse impact on sports generally of a reduced flow of revenue, if such measures are implemented.
Issue 3: Exposure of vulnerable groups to advertising
The paper acknowledges that the gambling market in Ireland has become saturated, particularly the online market, and especially around sport. The conclusion drawn is that children and problem gamblers are particularly at risk from gambling advertising.
The researchers also highlight various sources which support the proposition that the more people are exposed to gambling advertising, the more likely they are to become gamblers and problem gamblers.
They note that many jurisdictions have adopted watershed bans and other restrictions on gambling advertising, in an attempt to curb this impact on vulnerable groups. They also outline the position of industry stakeholders, who have called for clear distinctions to be made between different types of gambling advertising, with the stated aim of avoiding unintended and unnecessary impacts for industry stakeholders.
Against this backdrop, a key challenge for the GRAI will be to develop safeguards which strike the appropriate balance to protect individuals from the harms of problem gambling.
Overall, the researchers reflect the fact that both industry and health stakeholders have been supportive of the establishment of the GRAI. Industry stakeholders have also supported the adoption by the GRAI of codes to regulate gambling advertisement and promotion, provided that a clear distinction is drawn as between the types of gambling advertising. However, health stakeholders have gone further, calling for more extensive restrictions on advertising.
Ultimately, the paper concludes that the GRAI will have to consult widely with all stakeholders in creating codes to govern advertising, promotions and sponsorship by gambling companies. The challenge will be to strike the appropriate balance of protection whilst not driving consumers towards gambling with unregulated operators if overly restrictive measures are adopted, which disproportionately affect industry stakeholders who are established and licensed in this jurisdiction.
We will continue to keep you updated as developments unfold.
For further information in relation to this topic, please contact Joe Kelly, Partner, Katie O'Connor, Partner, or any member of ALG's Betting, Gaming & Licensing team.
Date published: 21 July 2022