DÁIL Éireann resumes next Wednesday after its summer break and the pressure continues to build on Minister James Browne to amend the Gambling Regulation Bill, ensuring that the two British-based racing channels can continue to be broadcast in Ireland.

Currently the Bill bans all gambling advertising on television from 5am to 9pm. This would mean that both Racing TV and Sky Sports Racing would have to either stop taking adverts from betting companies or produce a separate ad-free channel for a relatively small Irish market. The two channels say these solutions would not be viable.

Efforts by industry stakeholders and many of Minister Browne’s Fine Gael party colleagues to have the legislation amended to make an exemption for the racing channels have been rejected thus far.

Racing TV is seeking a meeting with the Minister but struggling to get his attention. A spokesperson for the channel told The Irish Field: “We did initially write to Minister Browne and the Department of Justice in March and April to request a meeting, but we never received a response.

“We have again requested a meeting with Minister Browne and his officials to discuss Section 141 of the Gambling Regulation Bill and, in particular, the Minister’s recent comments in the press, on how making an exemption for a specialist racing channel to broadcast gambling advertising contravenes EU law.


“We’d welcome the opportunity to show how betting is inextricably linked to the sport and part of its narrative. We’d like to discuss a scenario whereby you can opt-in to view gambling advertising on specialist channels, which you have to be 18 to subscribe to. This would be in line with what is being proposed online in the Bill and ensure there is consistency on all viewing platforms.

“Racing channels rely heavily on gambling advertising – and unfortunately there aren’t non-betting advertisers queuing up to replace them. If the Bill is passed, without an exemption, then it would just not be economically viable for the channel to continue broadcasting into Ireland in its current form. We have seen similar exemptions for racing channels in the UK and Australia.

“We wholeheartedly support the objectives of the Gambling Regulation Bill in protecting those at risk of harm – but TV coverage is the lifeblood of sports, and we don’t want to see anything that may jeopardise the fantastic TV exposure horse racing enjoys in Ireland.

“We’d like to reassure our subscribers that we are working hard with Horse Racing Ireland in terms of finding a solution which works for the Oireachtas. At the same time, we feel that consumers could have a major part to play in influencing the outcome, and we really urge them to contact their local TD to express their concerns.”

Balance right

Speaking to The Irish Field this week, Kildare-based Minister Martin Heydon said: “It is important that when introducing any legislation that a Minister considers the possibility for unintended consequences from their legislation.

“I want to see us get the balance right between delivering on our ambitions while also not undermining a vital industry like racing which employs thousands of people across rural Ireland. It is through dialogue that we can ensure a commonsense approach is taken.”

On a separate matter Minister Heydon added: “I am continuing to raise the issue of the VAT treatment on breeding mares temporarily imported into the country for breeding purposes. I know the industry has been awaiting a concrete update in this space and I am pushing hard with colleagues to bring some clarity on potential solutions.”