Irish Taoiseach: gambling should face “full gamut of advertising regulation”

Ireland is likely to introduce tighter restrictions for gambling advertising.
Ireland is likely to introduce tighter restrictions for gambling advertising.

Irish leader Micheál Martin says gambling addiction should be treated like smoking.

Ireland.- Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that gambling addiction should be dealt with in a similar way to smoking, receiving “the full gamut of advertising regulation”. The Irish leader made the comments in response to questions raised about the attendance by some government senators and TDs at Punchestown Races.

Several politicians attended the races as guests of the Irish Bookmakers Association at a moment in which Ireland’s coalition government is planning to introduce new legislation on gambling, which is expected to include tighter restrictions on gambling advertising as well as the creation of a new gambling regulator.

Asked whether he thought politicians involved should apologise, Martin said: “I’m not going to personalise it… I think lessons need to be learned from this in terms of getting on the side of working towards dealing with the addictions that flow from gambling.”

He added: “Perhaps it reflects a broader issue and complacency around society. I don’t believe in going after witch-hunts about individuals.”

New Irish gambling legislation

However, on the topic of gambling legislation, Martin said that minister of state for justice James Browne was “pioneering very comprehensive legislation to deal with the gambling issue and to deal with addiction more generally, but particularly gambling”.

Martin said: “I think the more important point is that we need to profile how challenging or how traumatic the gambling addiction is and the impact it has on families and on individuals. It is a shocking addiction because it can wreak havoc.

“So I would prefer to bring people with me on a journey to really dealing with gambling, like we’ve been dealing with tobacco, like we’ve been dealing with alcohol… and that means across the full gamut of advertising regulation and so on.”

Martin brought Ireland’s workplace smoking ban when he was minister for health. However, he did concede that work on alcohol had not been as successful as that on tobacco.

One proposal in Ireland’s Gambling Regulation Bill is the long-anticipated creation of a dedicated Irish gambling regulator, the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland. In March, Browne said an international search had begun to find a CEO for the new body, with applications due to close on March 21.

Responding to a question from deputy Paul Donnelly at the Dáil Éireann, Browne said: “The Public Appointments Service is managing the recruitment in conjunction with an Executive Search Agency….All eligible candidates are encouraged to apply. Full details of eligibility requirements including citizenship criteria are included in the candidate booklet.”

Ireland’s overhaul of gambling legislation is also expected to include a ban on free bets, credit card use and VIP programmes, something that the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) is concerned may push players to unregulated operators. 

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