Irish racing stakeholders have raised concerns about the commercial implications of the country’s Betting Regulation Bill, and what this could mean for the sport.

In particular, Ireland’s racing industry is concerned about Section 141 of the legislation, which could potentially reduce television coverage of Irish racing fixtures by introducing a gambling advertising watershed between 5:30am and 9pm.

Paul Hensey, CEO of the Association of Irish Racecourses (AIR), noted that the legislation – drafted by Ireland’s Minister for Justice, James Browne, has made a ‘clear distinction between sponsorship and advertising’.

This has not entirely soothed racing’s nerves, however. Hensey continued: “The one stumbling block we still have is Clause 141, which prohibits bookmaker advertising on television or radio between 5:30am and 9pm, and we haven’t made any more progress on that yet.”

The gambling advertising watershed would primarily affect Irish racing’s commercial opportunities on racing TV and Sky Sports racing, the two primary broadcasters of racing in the Republic.

Both the AIR – which organises media rights for the bulk of Irish racecourses – and Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) added that engagement with Browne, who has been drafting and spearheading the legislation for the past two years, has been positive.

Irish policymakers and legislators are currently in the process of upgrading the country’s betting legislation with the GRB, with the industry currently governed by the 1931 Betting Act.

The government hoped to bring legislation into force by the end of 2023, but as of January 2024 the Bill is still being assessed by the legislators of the Dail Eireann legislature.

Offering the perspective of Horse Racing Ireland (HRI), the organisation’s Chief Executive, Suzanne Eade said that the “ball was in the government’s court”.

The HRI believes that viewers of racing channels are less likely to be problem gamblers, and so planned restrictions may not be suitable. The body explained: “Our proposals centred around the demographics of those who are subscribed to racing channels.

“They are of an age group that is among the least at risk of problem gambling, based on what we know and the research from the Economic & Social Research Institute [ESRI].”

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