The proposed gambling advertising ban included in Ireland's Gambling Regulation Bill 2022 has progressed through the first round of amendments in the Oireachtas, Ireland's national parliament. The bill, approved in November 2022, underwent various modifications during the select committee on justice, but the contentious ad ban remained unchanged, despite opposition from industry bodies and broadcasters, particularly in the racing sector.
The bill introduces a watershed ban on gambling advertising on radio and television between 5.30am and 9pm, effectively eliminating ad slots during peak viewing hours. Furthermore, the ban encompasses electronic communication platforms such as video-sharing websites, text messages, emails, and social media. An earlier version of the bill proposed allowing users to opt-in to social media gambling advertising, but this provision did not make it into the latest version.
Violations of the gambling ad ban could result in severe penalties. Under summary conviction, individuals could face a class A fine, a maximum of 12 months imprisonment, or both. If convicted on indictment, the penalties include a fine or imprisonment for up to five years.
While the proposed ad ban has faced criticism from some industry actors, the overall bill has garnered support within the gambling industry. In April, Ireland's Department of Justice expressed its backing for the bill, considering it a "key priority" for 2023.
Aside from the ad ban, the amended bill includes several other significant reforms. It introduces changes to Ireland's Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act 1996 to prohibit the employment of individuals under 18 in gambling activities. The bill also establishes the Údarás Rialála Cearrbhachais na hÉireann, the Gambling Regulatory Authority, as the main regulatory body responsible for licensing, authorizing, and overseeing all gambling activities in the country.
Additionally, the bill features a ban on free bets as part of the efforts to mitigate the influence of gambling on vulnerable groups, including children.
The future of the Gambling Regulation Bill will depend on further legislative processes, debates, and potential amendments. The proposed ad ban and other reforms aim to shape Ireland's more regulated and responsible gambling environment.