HRI Responds Amid Reports Government Proposal to Allow Minors in Gambling Venues

Alan Evans

Updated by Alan Evans

News Writer

Last Updated 5th Jul 2024, 08:31 AM

HRI Responds Amid Reports Government Proposal to Allow Minors in Gambling Venues

A recent article in the Irish Times reported that children in Ireland are to be allowed in places where betting happens in new changes to the Government's gambling legislation. 

The report revealed proposals to modernise Ireland's gambling laws where it was revealed that children under the age of sixteen will be able to attend Irish racecourses even on betting days.  

It is understood that the aim is to diversify the entertainment offerings at these venues, but some argue that this could normalise gambling for minors. 

Racetracks around Ireland routinely offer children's tickets to race days. Leopardstown Racecourse currently sells tickets for its race days throughout the summer for children aged 13-17 (€5), while children 12 years old and below can enter for free. Similar pricing structures are in place at Fairyhouse Racecourse and Navan Racecourse, while the Curragh does not currently have a children's ticket on offer. 

However, the racecourses themselves do not need to obtain gambling licenses - it's the bookmakers who operate at the tracks who must hold a license to operate on the premises. 

Current legislation suggests children are not allowed to enter these venues, even on days when no betting activities take place. The proposed legislation would relax this rule and allow minors to enter larger venues while still prohibiting them from participating in gambling activities. 

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Last updated on May 8, 2024, the official website of the Irish Government states that, "Safeguarding the public, in particular children, is central to the work of the Authority. The Bill includes safeguards to expressly protect and prohibit children from participating in gambling, accessing premises where gambling activities are offered or being employed in connection to gambling services and activities.

"A person that breaches any of these prohibitions in relation to protecting children as provides for in the legislation, will be guilty of an offence and liable, on conviction, to up to 8 years imprisonment and / or a fine at the discretion of the courts."

Opponents of the proposal argue that this change would put a significant burden on staff to ensure that minors are not exposed to gambling, which could be challenging. They also express concerns that this move could have a negative impact on the well-being of children and potentially lead to problem gambling issues later in life. 

Horse Racing Ireland Responds to the Proposals to Allow Children to Enter Gambling Venues asked Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) a number of questions regarding the proposed changes. The HRI asserted that children are allowed to enter racetracks in Ireland currently and that there are "no proposed changes" in legislation.

The report in the Irish Times read, “Amendments will allow for children to enter onto a larger campus, such as a racetrack from where betting is provided, but children will be precluded from participating in betting at all times. Without these amendments, children could not attend events at racetracks”. 

A memo for cabinet detailed by the Irish Times in the same article states, "Without these amendments, children could not attend events at racetracks, etc, even on days where no betting activities were being offered, such as festivals, family events."

However, when asked if HRI had any comment on the proposed changes in legislation to allow children to enter racetracks in Ireland, a spokesperson for the HRI told, “There are no proposed changes in legislation to allow children to enter racetracks in Ireland. Children are allowed to enter racetracks in Ireland.” 

“Irish law forbids any person under the age of 18 from placing a bet.” 

We asked if Horse Racing Ireland have any concerns regarding the welfare and wellbeing on children at racecourses specifically that they may be immersed in an atmosphere of gambling. 

The spokesperson responded, “Betting at a racecourse occurs only in specific areas. There are many areas of all racecourses which are far removed from areas where betting with on-course bookmakers or tote is taking place.” 

The HRI confirmed there are provisions put in place for children attending racetracks by ways of entertainment which are wide-ranging, from playgrounds to farm petting zoos.  

The statement continued, “Feedback from racegoers, through post-event surveys, show that the most popular areas of the racecourse for families are the parade ring to watch the horses’ parade before their race, dedicated Children's Marquees and the racecourse playgrounds."

“There is a huge number of activities for children on many race days including Horse Education Stations, Treasure Hunts, Hobby Horse races, Facepainting, Magicians, Puppet Shows, Farm Petting Zoos, Bouncy Castles and Reptile Zoos. 

"The variety of children’s entertainment at Family race days is a key motivator for parents and guardians to bring their families to Irish racecourses.” 

It is unclear as to whether the proposals have been consulted on as HRI says children are already allowed and that they are unaware of proposals to ban children. 

Sports Clubs And Charities Exempt From Advertising Rules 

In a related development, the Department of Justice recently decided to fully exempt sports clubs and charities from new gambling advertising rules, which was met with criticism from some lawmakers.  

The proposed legislation will also impose a ban on gambling ads on TV before the 9pm watershed, but an exemption for clubs and charities was granted due to concerns about fundraising for good causes. 

Some argue that children are exposed to gambling often in the most innocent of events such as a duck race, whereby they or their parents buy a ticket with a number, which wins or loses depending on if their duck arrives at the finish line first. 

Meet The Author

Alan Evans
Alan Evans
News Writer News Writer

Most of my career was spent in teaching including at one of the UK’s top private schools. I left London in 2000 and set up home in Wales raising four beautiful children. I enrolled at University where I studied Photography and film and gained a Degree and subsequently a Masters Degree. In 2014 I helped launch a new local newspaper and managed to get front and back page as well as 6 filler pages on a weekly basis. I saw that journalism was changing and was a pioneer of hyperlocal news in Wales. In 2017 I started one of the first 24/7 free independent news sites for Wales. Having taken that to a successful business model I was keen for a new challenge. Joining the company is exciting for me especially as it is a new role in Europe. I am keen to establish myself and help others to do the same.

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