Politicians attending bookmaker-hosted event  'doesn't help' ahead of gambling law reform

Politicians attending bookmaker-hosted event  'doesn't help' ahead of gambling law reform

Several Government TDs and Senators attended a corporate hospitality event at the Punchestown racecourse last month, at which the Irish Bookmakers Association paid for three tables,

Campaigners are insisting on a “level playing field” ahead of the passing of landmark gambling legislation, after it emerged that a number of politicians attended an event organised by bookmakers during a recent race day.

Several Government TDs and Senators attended a corporate hospitality event at the Punchestown racecourse last month, at which the Irish Bookmakers Association paid for three tables, the Irish Dail Mail reported on Thursday

The April event comes as Government prepares to enact new gambling legislation — first mooted almost a decade ago — to bring Ireland’s gambling laws into the 21st century.

“Things like this don’t help," said Barry Grant, CEO of Extern Problem Gambling, ahead of the passing of such “important legislation”.

“My concern is when you have huge companies that can wine and dine policymakers,” he said. “Now, there’s no guarantee that lobbying around the gambling regulation bill was happening. But there’s a possibility that things like this could make some policymakers more sympathetic to their cause.” 

Mr Grant suggested that, for advocates and charities in this area, they “rarely get these opportunities to meet with large groups of legislators in such a casual setting”.

“We don’t have the resources to do it," he said. "And even if we did, we’d spend it on service users.” 

In the UK, reports have emerged in recent years of MPs accepting free tickets for sporting events from gambling firms and Mr Grant said that he would “prefer not to see that here”.

'Dismay will be growing'

Sinn Féin’s Thomas Gould, meanwhile, said reports of politicians attending the event were “deeply concerning”.

Thomas Gould has called for 'fair and robust' legislation of the gambling industry.
Thomas Gould has called for 'fair and robust' legislation of the gambling industry.

“Many people working in the addiction sector to support those affected by problem gambling have been dismayed for many years at the government’s inaction on this issue,” he said. “Today, I am sure this sense of dismay will be growing.” 

Mr Gould urged the Government to prioritise “fair and robust regulation” of the gambling industry, which should meet the needs of people experiencing or vulnerable to addiction.

The matter was also raised by Sinn Féin’s Niall Ó Donnghaile in the Seanad, who called on those who were at the event to make a statement on the matter.

Earlier this month, a cross-party committee published a report calling for tougher measures in the gambling laws than had previously been mooted by the Government.

Minister of State James Browne said in a parliamentary reply this week that the Department of Justice will consider the recommendations of that report with the new gambling regulator set to come into operation next year.

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