Even charities express concern

Irish politicians facing intense lobbying over proposed gambling laws

Minister of State at the Department of Justice James Browne
Reading time 1:43 min

Politicians in Ireland are experiencing relentless lobbying efforts over proposed new gambling laws, which the Government argues are essential to address a "tsunami of social problems."

The proposed legislation includes measures such as a ban on daytime advertising, the creation of a social-impact fund to support problem gambling initiatives, and the establishment of Ireland’s first gambling regulator with extensive authority in the sector.

Analysis of the lobbying register this year reveals substantial lobbying activity aimed at politicians in Leinster House regarding the gambling legislation currently progressing through the Oireachtas, the parliament of Ireland.

Professor Colin O’Gara, a consultant psychiatrist and head of addiction services at St John of God Hospital, told the Irish Examiner that there has been "non-stop, incessant pressure" from the gambling sector on junior justice minister James Browne to dilute the bill. "The whole idea of this legislation is we get it through in a timely fashion," he said. "That time has elapsed. It’s been too long."

In addition to lobbying by bookmakers and horse-racing representatives, many charities have expressed concerns about how the new laws might affect their fundraising activities, such as lotteries and raffles.

Arthritis Ireland, in correspondence with TDs and senators, stated that its national raffle would be severely impacted by the advertising restrictions, potentially resulting in a €25,000 annual income loss and a "detrimental impact" on its ability to provide services to people with arthritis.

Other charities, including Laura Lynn Children’s Hospice and Multiple Sclerosis Ireland, have also appealed to politicians to exempt charitable activities from the new regulations. The Jack and Jill Foundation called for an examination of the potential impact on fundraising income.

Responding in the Seanad this month, Minister Browne indicated that the Government would consider amendments to exempt charities from some of the measures in the gambling legislation.

Professor O’Gara acknowledged the minister's position but voiced concerns about the pervasive influence of gambling in Irish society and the risk of the bill being weakened. "The minister has been pushing back against much of the lobbying so far, which is the right thing to do," he said.

Significant lobbying efforts have also come from Horse Racing Ireland, Flutter (owner of Paddy Power), Boylesports, and the Irish Bookmakers Association. Both Flutter and the Bookmakers Association have emphasized the need to inform politicians about the "unintended consequences of the bill." Horse Racing Ireland wrote to Tánaiste Micheál Martin outlining the bill’s potential impact on the horse racing industry.

Minister Browne stated that the Government has taken "extraordinary lengths" to protect the horse and greyhound racing sectors but emphasized that gambling is creating a "tsunami of social problems" and causing "extraordinary damage" to society.

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