Naas shops hedge their bets by extending opening hours


Paul O'Meara


Paul O'Meara


Naas shops hedge their bets by extending opening hours

Paddy Power, Poplar Square, Naas

There were a couple of people in Boylesports shop in Naas’s Main Street at 8pm on Sunday — and the place hadn’t been broken into.

Boylesports and Paddy Power are experimenting with Sunday evening opening. They’re open until 8pm on Sundays now. It’s being done on a trial basis for about two months and if enough people come through the door it’ll likely become a more permanent fixture. In Naas, some retailers have been encouraged to open outside normal hours , like all day Sunday, in a bid to encourage more people into the town.

The two betting shop giants have already been open all day on Sunday for some years now but always closed by 6pm. But, you have to hand it to them, their strong sense of public service means that they want to be with us for an extra few hours at the end of the week to serve our needs.

Time was when betting shops had more restricted hours. They didn’t open in the evenings, never opened before the pubs and didn’t bother lifting the shutters on a Sunday at all. Gambling never sleeps. It’s a 24 hour industry because even when the shops are closed. the internet facilitates 24-7 gambling. There’s always something happening somewhere that you can bet on, like a cricket game in India or Pakistan or a soccer game in Colombia. Back in the day the only races you could bet on were in Ireland in the UK.

The menu’s been extended to include places like Argentina, India, Uruguay and Chile as well as America. Given the time difference, many of these races conveniently take place on a daily basis when the horseracing on this side of the globe has ceased.

Then there’s the never ending conveyor belt of greyhound racing from places like Hove, Belle Vue and Monmore, like Mullingar and Youghal. As someone who frequents betting shops, this reporter has some awareness of the growth in the level of gambling and the growing attraction it has, particularly for young men.

What’s goes on in the shop is the tip of the iceberg. More and more gambling takes place on mobile devices. There’s independent evidence too that this is a growing problem.

Ireland is a nation of losers when it comes to gambling. There are official statistics to back this up. Figures from 2016 show that Ireland suffered the third highest per capita losses from gambling. The research was carried out by H2 Capital Gambling, a reputable organisation which collates data and intelligence on the global gambling industry.

The research shows losses of about €470 per adult on different forms of gambling and total gambling losses in Ireland amounted to €2.1 billion. Australia is at the top of the league in terms of losses and Singapore is second. But gambling in Ireland is worse than the US, Britain, Italy and Canada. The preferred form of gambling in Ireland is online, while in Australia it’s gaming machines and in Singapore it’s casinos.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that gambling is becoming a big problem in Ireland and the list of well known GAA players — almost exclusively young men — who have found themselves in trouble has grown. These instances represent the top of the iceberg.

Our politicians are behind the curve here. One exception has been the Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan (SF) who believes the damage that gambling is having on Irish society goes largely unreported. “While issues around problem drinking and drug abuse have been tackled in a more head on fashion in recent years, the issue of problem gambling has been relatively ignored by politicians.”

There has been little acknowledgement by them about this issue and they need to be proactive because if this is to be addressed then legislation is the