Challenges for RTV, Sky Sports Racing

Racing TV voices concerns over viability in Ireland amidst proposed gambling regulation bill

Reading time 1:20 min

The Racing TV (RTV) channel, which showcases Irish racing behind a paywall, has raised concerns over its future viability in Ireland if the government's proposed Gambling Regulation Bill is enacted without modifications. The bill includes a ban on gambling advertising during certain hours, which RTV and Sky Sports Racing say poses significant challenges for the ongoing operations.

According to RTV, the ban on gambling advertising between 5:30 am and 9 pm could render their businesses unviable in Ireland unless exemptions are granted. While the bill has progressed through the Dáil (the lower house of the Irish legislature), it still awaits scrutiny in the Seanad (upper house). Late alterations to the bill are possible, but the government appears firm on maintaining the advertising ban.

Various racing organizations have expressed alarm over the potential consequences of the bill for the sport. Suzanne Eade, Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland, spoke about the importance of ensuring that racing remains accessible in Ireland. She stated that the sport’s ruling body cannot allow pictures not to be broadcast there.

Despite speculation that betting advertising shortfalls could be compensated by increased appearances and contributions from bookmaker representatives, RTV dismissed this notion. RTV clarified that such arrangements would contravene broadcasting regulations in Britain.

In a statement, RTV asserted: "Having bookmakers’ contributions on the channel as a replacement for ads is completely against the regulator Ofcom’s advertising regulations. We can categorically say that no deals have been reached with bookmaker partners on this."

The uncertainty surrounding the bill's impact has left stakeholders, including Horse Racing Ireland (HRI), seeking clarity. HRI and the Association of Irish Racecourses finalized a media rights deal worth €47 million ($59 million) per year with Racecourse Media Group, which owns RTV. The deal covers various services, including streaming, betting shop services, and direct-to-home coverage through RTV.

Both HRI and RTV have emphasized the need for amendments to the legislation before it is enacted. They highlight exemptions from advertising restrictions for specialist racing channels in other jurisdictions, citing examples such as Australia. 

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