Gambling Regulation Bill 2022: Proposed Time Restrictions on Advertising of Gambling Activities Will Have a Wide Reach
IRELAND (January 27, 2023) — The Gambling Regulation Bill 2022 (the “Bill”), published on 02 December 2022, is set to bring in extensive regulation for gambling activities in Ireland. One significant reform under the Bill is the proposed tighter regulation on the advertisement of gambling activities – betting, gaming, and lotteries.
In this three-part series, we will look at some of the provisions set out in Part 6 of the Bill, which will place a number of obligations on those licensed for a gambling activity and others, such as online platforms and broadcasters.
For more information on the general provisions of the Bill and the proposed licensing regime under the Bill, see our briefing here.
What does the Bill currently propose?
Under Section 141 of the Bill, a person shall not advertise, or knowingly cause another person to advertise, a relevant gambling activity on television, radio, or an on-demand audio-visual media service (an “On-demand Service”) between the hours of 5.30 am and 9.00 pm. This effectively creates a watershed time between 9.00 pm and 5.30 am during which relevant gambling activities may be advertised (the “Watershed”). Section 141 also provides for the newly established Gambling Regulation Authority of Ireland to prescribe further aspects of such advertising during the Watershed including times, places, events, volume, frequency, and duration.
The definition of ‘advertise’ under the Bill is wide, being “any form of communication, whether public or otherwise, intended to publicise or otherwise market a gambling activity”. Examples of what constitutes communication are given, and include communication by telephone and on the internet, in a newspaper, on television, on the radio, or by the display of a notice.
If the Bill is enacted in its current form, it will mean those relevant gambling activities may not be advertised at all during daytime hours on television, radio, and on On-demand Services until the Watershed begins. This appears to include gambling advertising even in circumstances where an individual has, in accordance with Section 138 of the Bill, subscribed to an On-demand Service and has also explicitly consented to receive gambling advertisements.
Who will this apply to?
The application of this provision could potentially be very far-reaching. Those immediately affected will include licensees engaged in relevant gambling activities, who wish to advertise their products and services.
However, Section 141 will also be of central significance to any broadcaster who televises, or broadcasts on the radio, sporting events, both live events, and replays, during daytime hours (which is typically when the majority of sporting events take place). Not only will broadcasters have to restrict gambling advertisements broadcast during these events on their channels, it appears Section 141 may also affect how certain events are covered:
- Hoardings – Where advertising hoardings at an event are used to advertise relevant gambling activities, might this be restricted under Section 141? Whilst a broadcaster might argue that including such hoardings in its coverage is not intended to advertise a gambling activity, it is not clear whether the entity that causes the hoardings to be put in place knowing that they will be included in a broadcast outside of the Watershed might breach Section 141.
- Sponsorship – A further complication arises in connection with the sponsorship of events or competitions by companies engaged in gambling activities. Save for sponsorship of events and premises that have certain links with children, which is prohibited under Section 150, sponsorship of events by companies engaged in gambling activities is not restricted under the Bill. However, it isn’t clear how the Watershed restriction is intended to affect referring to such sponsorship by broadcasters (e.g. would it be permissible for a broadcaster to refer to a particular horse race that includes the name of a bookmaker in its title?).
- Odds – For certain events (e.g. horse racing or greyhound racing), it is typical for a broadcaster to refer to the odds that are available for betting on the outcome of the event. If these odds were linked to a particular bookmaker, it seems clear that this would not be permitted during the Watershed. It is less clear whether simply referring to odds available more generally would be restricted, but it would be useful if this was clarified in the Bill.
One big question which remains is what the indirect, but potentially very significant, effects that this provision (in addition to the other advertising restrictions proposed in Part 6 of the Bill) will have on the Irish horse racing industry. The introduction of the Watershed will restrict any advertising of relevant gambling activities on live televised horseraces during any daytime hours. Therefore, on the face of it, it seems that Section 141 will also have a significant impact on the value of the Irish horse racing industry’s product to broadcasters.
By: Douglas McMahon and Alan Heuston
SOURCE: McCann FitzGerald LLP / Lexology