TRAINER Paul Nolan believes that if proposed gambling legislation leads to the removal of dedicated racing channels from Irish screens it will be “the beginning of the end” for racing.
Nolan is one of more than 40 Wexford trainers who have added their names to a petition sent to local Minister for State James Browne, asking him to amend the wording of the Gambling Regulation Bill so that Racing TV and Sky Sports Racing will be exempt from any new law which prohibits the broadcasting of gambling advertisements or promotion during daylight hours.
The two broadcasters have said they would find it extremely difficult to continue providing a service to Irish viewers if a blanket ban on daytime gambling advertising was imposed on them.
Minister Browne is leading the progress of the Bill through the Oireachtas. The Bill provides the framework for the establishment of the Gambling Regulation Authority and it also focuses on measures to prevent harm being caused to problem gamblers.
Nolan told The Irish Field: “People who are in bother with their gambling have to be taken into account but losing the racing channels would destroy racing. It would have a horrendous effect if owners couldn’t see their horses racing. It would be a disaster.”
He called on everyone who makes a living in Irish racing to make contact with their local TDs and senators and make their voices heard.
According to a report this week in the Wexford People, the letter sent by local trainers to Minister Browne begins: “We, your constituents, represent over 40 yards and support close to 400 full and part-time employees as well as creating a very substantial amount of indirect employment.
“You (Minister Browne) may not realise but over the last two years Wexford-based trainers and handlers have been responsible for the sale of horses to the value of over €45 million. It is a great source of pride to us that our efforts and success have resulted in a major boost to local economies throughout the county, especially within the last decade.
“However, lately there have been reports in the media that the dedicated horse racing subscription channels – Racing TV and Sky Sports Racing – are seriously worried about their ability to continue broadcasting Irish race meetings to an Irish audience in light of the gambling advertising watershed ban which is proposed within the Gambling Regulation Bill.
“Television coverage, which encompasses the two aforementioned channels along with RTE, TG4 and Virgin Media, represents one of the key pillars in our ability to market the sport and, as importantly, our bloodstock. So, if racing were to disappear from our screens, we believe it would have a detrimental effect on both the hugely successful Irish racing industry and our pivotal point-to-point sector which underpins local economies throughout Wexford.
“Minister, we would plead with you to avoid what is an unintended consequence of this extremely worthwhile and necessary piece of legislation and work towards creating the sort of exemptions already in place in other jurisdictions such as Australia and Britain that will allow these TV channels (that are already behind paywalls) to work in a commercial environment where it is attractive for them to continue to broadcast Irish racing here in Ireland and not just to a UK audience where no similar commercial restrictions apply.”