Irish Horse Racing Faces Uncertainty as Gambling Advertising Ban Looms

Posted on: September 14, 2023, 06:40h. 

Last updated on: October 10, 2023, 01:37h.

There are concerns within the Irish horse racing ecosystem that government proposals to curb gambling advertising could wipe out the racing industry. Two of the largest racing organizations in the country have tried to share these concerns with James Browne, the Minister of State for the Department of Justice in Ireland, but were shot down.

Jockeys participate in a horse race in Ireland
Jockeys participate in a horse race in Ireland. A ban on gambling ads in the country will include race broadcasts. (Image: Irish Independent) 


Despite extensive efforts by various industry groups, the Irish government remains resolute in its refusal to grant horseracing-oriented TV channels any free pass. Like all other channels, they will have to abide by a planned ban on showing gambling advertising during daytime hours.

Death of the Gambling Ad

Browne got together with representatives from Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) and the Association of Irish Racecourses (AIR) to hear their concerns this week. Both have been vocal about the effects the proposed ban will have on the industry.

The organizations assert that there’s much more at stake than revenue. Ireland’s horse racing ecosystem is worth around $2.66 billion per year and supplies jobs to around 30,000 people.

During the meeting, HRI advocated for an exemption for two broadcasters specialized in horseracing. This, as Browne later explained in comments following the meeting, stemmed from a recent agreement HRI made to exclusively sell television rights for Irish racing from 2024 to 2028.

Browne made it clear that he doesn’t see any reason to offer an exemption. He believes it would counter what the ban is trying to accomplish – a more responsible gambling image – and would go against the government’s wishes.

In addition, he maintained that the proposed agreement would lack legal viability. Other gaming operators and broadcasters could view it as discriminatory, leading to accusations of unfair treatment.

Browne also pointed out that the new gambling reforms don’t eliminate all forms of gambling advertising. On-track ads and jockey and race sponsorships are still possible. In addition, there’s no provision to eliminate betting at the tracks.

As such, he couldn’t find any reason to support HRI and AIR, and they won’t be able to rally for a broadcasting exemption. Browne has submitted his final word on the matter, with virtually no chance it will be reversed.

Anti-Gambling Pundits Rejoice

The progression of the Gambling Regulation Bill, after a very long wait, is underway within the legislative process. Among other prohibitions, It encompasses a specific clause aiming to restrict the promotion of gambling and betting platforms on Irish TV between 5:30 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.

Supporters of the ban contend that it forms an integral component of a nationwide endeavor to enhance public health. They argue that it will go a long way toward reducing the prevalence of “problem gambling” in the country.

Their stance rests on the premise that by restricting the promotion of gambling to children, the forthcoming measures will effectively curb its negative impact on society. However, the jury’s still out on whether that’s actually the case.