Paddy Power speaks out against blanket gambling ad ban in IrelandBy Luke Haward, CDC Gaming ReportsAugust 16, 2018 at 10:00 amThere’s a strange sense of già visto wafting around the Irish gambling industry this week.That’s the slightly less catchy Italian translation of déjà vu, as Ireland mulls over the merits and perils of a ban on gambling advertising without even pausing to keep an eye on Italy as it institutes a near-total gambling advertising ban from January 1st, exempting only the National Lottery. Ireland is seriously considering its options here.This week, major bookmaker Paddy Power Betfair – who, to their credit, have been speaking out on the need for better customer protections for some time – weighed in with an implication that a total ban might be counterproductive and a bad solution to existing issues.Paddy Power Betfair Chief Executive Paul Jackson stated that a total ban was “not necessarily the right answer” and that it would be “very restrictive,” as in Italy, where sports teams face a total ban on sponsorships by betting firms. Some of these sponsorships can be very lucrative; the largest betting firms are valued in the hundreds of millions.Jackson’s statement comes in response to Irish President Michael Higgins, who said in July that a ban on gambling ads at sporting events would help preserve sports integrity.“If I had my way, I wouldn’t have advertising or any access to gambling platforms in sport at all”, stated Higgins.Interestingly, ex-Paddy Power CEO Kenny Stewart has recently said that, while he has immense respect for Paul Jackson, he feels Jackson is “completely wrong” on this matter.Stewart argues that radical change is needed to help protect young people from normalisation to gambling but is not suggesting a total ban, ala Italy. Stewart instead recommends a ban on gambling ads during sporting events before a certain hour.Paddy Power have led the way for responsible gambling in Ireland in certain respects. The firm introduced a new digital self-exclusion system to its betting shops in March that’s designed to better protect vulnerable people and help identify self-excluded players across multiple branches in their local area.Stewart has been a consistent advocate of going further, calling for a hard limit to be placed on the total amounts which a player can deposit online during a certain period and for a “cooling-off” control measure which would help limit compulsive play and overspending. This would be unique in the industry, and clearly would cut into online sites’ returns while also helping prevent them from being exploitative of players with a penchant for compulsive play.It will be interesting to see how this one unravels. Ireland has one of the world’s lowest gambling taxes, 1%, and faces a much-delayed overhaul of its outdated gambling regulations.The Irish public is particularly vulnerable to the downside of the widespread availability gambling. It abounds both online and on the high street. It wouldn’t be surprising to see some further restrictions on advertising coming into effect soon.For now, at least, it’s wait-and-see time: all eyes are on Italy, to see how the market recovers from the blow of a total gambling ad ban.