Ireland President Michael Higgins Says Small Print on Betting Ads Isn’t Enough

Posted on: July 13, 2021, 10:15h. 

Last updated on: July 13, 2021, 02:33h.

Ireland President Michael Higgins says the fine print below sports betting advertisements falls far short of being considered responsible marketing as it relates to the gaming industry.

Michael Higgins Ireland betting advertising
A Paddy Power ad for the August 2017 boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor, above. Ireland President Michael Higgins says more needs to be done to warn potential players of the dangers of problem gambling. (Image: Paddy Power)

Higgins explained that after meeting with people at the Carraig Eden center who have experienced addictions of various kinds, including gambling, much more needs to be done to make sure betting adverts are not causing societal harm. 

Nobody can accept that the tokenistic ‘small print’ warnings and invitations to be ‘responsible’ are in any way in proportion to the possible damage being inflicted by the lure of sports gambling ads,” Higgins declared. 

“There are serious questions, ones that are surely in the public interest to have answered, as to how such a high degree of saturation of the media landscape by sports betting advertisements has arisen, when the evidence of the damage being inflicted is so obvious and should be a concern to us all,” the president added.

Industry Exec Supportive

Last weekend, Higgins appeared with gaming industry reps during a discussion on gambling advertising hosted by RTÉ’s Prime Time, a current affairs television program. RTÉ is Ireland’s national television and radio broadcaster. 

Paddy Power, an Irish bookmaker that operates betting shops in Ireland and throughout the United Kingdom, is the country’s most well-known bookmaker. Its co-founder, Stewart Kenny, sat in on the Prime Time conversation. And perhaps surprisingly to some, Kenny fully supports more strict regulations regarding betting ads.

[Ireland is] so far behind in regulating the gambling industry that there is no protection for the young and vulnerable,” Kenny said. “Governments for the last 20 years have been totally negligent.”

Kenny claims he resigned as CEO of Paddy Power in 2016 “because they [the government] refused to do anything meaningful on gambling addiction.”

After meeting with industry reps and gaming addicts, Higgins says, “The debate on sports gambling advertising has now been taken up in the public discourse.” Higgins didn’t state whether that should lead to more regulations surrounding advertising standards.

Paddy Power has become rather notorious for its controversial advertising in recent decades. Perhaps its most scandalous ploy came following former President Barack Obama’s election in 2008. Paddy Power offered 12/1 odds on whether Obama would be assassinated in his first term. The book removed the line amid public backlash.

Gaming Advert Ban Proposed

Members of the Labor Party, which is presently part of the opposition in the Oireachtas, Ireland’s legislature, have recommended that the Republic ban gambling-related advertisements during certain television programming. 

In February, the party drafted a bill that seeks public input on laws regarding gambling marketing. Party members say gaming and sports betting should be treated in the same manner as alcohol and tobacco.

Ireland bans advertising related to booze and tobacco during television programs primarily intended for children. Actors in such commercials must also be at least 25 years old, and companies must warn of the dangers on consuming alcohol and tobacco.