THE prospect of both Racing TV and Sky Sports Racing being blocked in Ireland during daylight hours remains a very real possibility following talks this week between officials from Horse Racing Ireland and Minister James Browne, who is responsible for guiding the proposed Gambling Regulation Bill through the Oireachtas.

Under the Bill, gambling advertisements cannot be broadcast on television between 5.30am and 9pm. Racing TV and Sky Sports Racing, who are both based in Britain where the law obviously will not apply, have said it would not be practical for them to create a separate “betting free” broadcasting service for an Irish audience, and have called on the Government to make their channels exempt from the legislation.

Trainers, owners, breeders, racecourses and TDs have also spoken publicly on the issue and described how losing the racing channels would negatively impact on the Irish racing industry.

A spokesperson for Horse Racing Ireland told The Irish Field: “HRI and Association of Irish Racecourses officials met with Minister Browne and his officials on Wednesday. It was a constructive meeting and a number of issues were resolved, but solutions are still not in place around the gambling advertising ban.”

Peter Burke, a Fine Gael TD for Longford-Westmeath, Minister for European Affairs and a keen racing supporter, said he has been lobbied on the matter by trainers, breeders and racecourses.

“There are huge concerns in relation to the Bill,” he said. “Media rights income is vital for racecourses so it’s critical that live pictures remain on air,” he said. “I have made representations to Government to ensure that rural racecourses do not end up worse off because of the Bill.”

Despite the attempts by racing stakeholders to influence the proposed legislation, the feeling among industry bodies this week is that the battle to preserve access to the racing channels remains an uphill struggle.

One source said: “There is no problem with racecourse signage, bookmakers sponsoring races, or other ‘incidental’ gambling advertising. The problem is with advertising slots for specific betting companies which pop up regularly on both channels.

“The two racing channels say it would be too costly for them to replicate the service on a separate channel exclusively for Irish viewers. The Government may feel it cannot make an exception for one sport, even though it is clear that this Bill is going to damage racing more than any other sport.”