Monday, 22 March 2021
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
As we know, last week was a fantastic week for the Irish horse racing industry with the success at Cheltenham of so many trainers, with Rachael Blackmore becoming champion jockey and with Jack Kennedy landing the Gold Cup. Last week was also a bumper week for the bookmaker industry. Unlike other industries, which are despondent that their shops are shut, this was a godsend for the bookmaker industry because it got even more people online gambling on their phones.
Last month, I raised the issue of the pending legislative measures being brought forward by Minister of State, Deputy Browne, surrounding this sector but what is most necessary is the appointment of a gambling regulator, which continues to be stalled. Former Armagh GAA and sports correspondent Oisín McConville, a man who has suffered from gambling addiction, spent the last week on RTÉ television and radio highlighting how one in five teenage boys has an excessive gambling problem. I pay tribute to RTÉ for carrying these items on the "Claire Byrne Live" show and again on "Sunday Sport" on Radio 1 yesterday. However, after Oisín was speaking, the coverage went to the Curragh for the feature race of the opening day of the flat, which was won by a trainer who is local to me, Noel Meade. When the race was over there was a little sound bite to inform the listeners of Radio 1 that coverage of the race in the Curragh had been brought to them courtesy of BoyleSports. One could not make it up. This is why we need to see a regulator in place - the invasive advertising is relentless - but of course where it is most needed is the online space.
As I said, large firms had a bonanza last week with everyone going online. As I enjoy a bet on events like Cheltenham and the Grand National, I went online to place a wager. I had the account set up within two minutes. When the week was over and I went to cash out, here came the issue. Paddy Power suddenly looked for photo ID of me to be sent to that company to prove who I was to get my money back. I could have gambled away my house all week. Paddy Power never wanted my ID in order for me to give it all the money I had but when I went to get my money, it suddenly wanted my passport. Of course my Facebook timeline is now polluted with advertisements by Paddy Power and they wonder why one in five boys in this country has a gambling addiction.
As Oisín McConville said yesterday, we have 1950s legislation for an industry which is tearing up the rule book. We need to see the Minister of State make this move. I ask the Leader to request this of him when he comes before the House in order that the debate is continued, that pressure for change is continued and that we apply the whip firmly to the bookmakers before they make an addict of every young child in this country.