POLITICIANS say there is work to be done to ensure both Racing TV and Sky Sports Racing remain available to Irish viewers after the Gambling Regulation Bill becomes law.
The Bill, which has is going through the Oireachtas at the moment, includes a total ban on gambling advertising on television between 5.30am and 9pm. The two racing channels say this would cause them major problems, to the point of making it impossible for them to offer the service to Irish viewers.
Senator Paul Daly, former chairman of Kilbeggan Racecourse, told The Irish Field last night: “As of now, this would be a worry. But the Bill still has a long way to go before it is passed. I can’t stress enough that I appreciate the intention of the Bill to protect the public from inappropriate advertising. However, we know how valuable media rights are to Irish racing and this is one sector which could be greatly impacted by the proposed moratorium on betting advertising.
“To the best of my knowledge, there is no issue with jockeys carrying betting logos or presenters listing the odds, but explicit bookmaker adverts would not be allowed and the two channels are saying they can’t survive without those.
“I will be lobbying Government to make the necessary amendments.”
Tipperary TD and racing fan Jackie Cahill added: “This Bill is going through the Oireachtas and I am aware of concerns raised by the racing channels about its implications for them. I will be making contact with the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and the Minister for State James Browne to see if the intention of the Bill can be achieved without doing damage to the racing industry.”
The relevant section of the Bill states: “A person shall not knowingly advertise, or cause another person to advertise, a relevant gambling activity on television, radio, or an on-demand audio-visual media service between the hours of 5:30am and 9pm”
A spokesperson for Racing TV said: “There would be substantial economic and operational challenges in ceasing to carry gambling advertising, sponsorships, and branding on Racing TV – and is likely to mean that it ceases to be viable to continue broadcasting in Ireland.
“We are very supportive that gambling legislation in Ireland is modernised to protect the vulnerable but there is a significant risk that the unintentional result is that racing fans and the industry are no longer able to watch the racing channels in Ireland.
“It would be a huge shame to potentially deny Irish breeders, owners, trainers, and jockeys, as well as the huge number of Irish racing fans and enthusiasts, the ability to watch the major racing festivals and day-to-day coverage of horse racing from Ireland and Britain.
“We have only recently signed a new media rights deal with all 26 Irish racecourses for 2024 to 2028 inclusive. TV coverage is the lifeblood for any sport and the damage that the loss of these channels in Ireland might cause the successful Irish racing industry is of real concern. Once fans are no longer able to watch a sport on TV there is a real risk that the sport then suffers a decline in interest and participation.
“Racing TV is a subscription channel and therefore satisfies, in our view, many of the ‘opt in’ safeguards seen elsewhere in the Bill. We ask the new gambling regulator and the Oireachtas to recognise the very close relationship between racing and betting and allow an exemption for dedicated channels showing horseracing. This would permit betting companies’ advertising, sponsorships, and branding to be shown on those channels’ coverage of horseracing, during the watershed hours of 5:30am to 9pm.
Sky Sports Racing
At The Races, the company which operates Sky Sports Racing, says the blanket ban on gambling advertising may also render its channel “economically unviable in Ireland”.
Sky Sports Racing claims 97% of its viewership are over 24 years of age, “so our channel is clearly aimed at adults and not at children or young people”.
Matthew Imi, CEO of At The Races, said: “There is also ample evidence to show that horseracing is not a driver of problem gambling in a way that other betting and gaming products are.
“Uniquely, as compared to other sports, horseracing and betting go hand in hand so a significant amount of advertising on our specialist horseracing channel and, indeed, on competitor racing channels, is betting related. If this proposed watershed ban on gambling advertising goes ahead as drafted it could have a devastating impact on such dedicated horseracing channels.
“It’s our view that such a ban may render Sky Sports Racing economically unviable in Ireland if the option for bookmaker advertising and sponsorship support is no longer open to us.
“Not only would this penalise the multitude of horseracing fans in Ireland but it would also have a negative impact on the industry as a whole, which we know is worth €2.4 billion to the Irish economy and which supports more than 30,000 jobs.”
The channel is calling for specialist horse racing channels to be exempted from the advertising ban and said that if a compromise cannot be reached it may, “reluctantly, have to make a decision to remove Sky Sports Racing from Ireland”.