KILDARE OPINION: Even the industry itself concedes we have a gambling problem here

Paul O'Meara gives his views

Paul O'Meara


Paul O'Meara


KILDARE OPINION: Even the industry itself concedes we have a gambling problem here

Gambling literature

You have to hand it to to the bookies. Their commitment to serving the public knows few boundaries.

Like, they’re already open for a dozen hours most days and early enoughin the mornings to catch parents on their way home from the school run.

If you think that there are endless opportunities to gamble you’d be right and we, here in Ireland, have more to worry about than many other countries.

Sometime between Christmas and the start of 2019 one of the TV channels broadcast a documentary about the wonders of Munster rugby.

During at least two breaks there were ads promoting a casino in Dublin.

The link between sport and gambling is all around us now and it’s getting out of control. Many people, especially young men find it impossible to look a football game — Premier League, GAA or rugby — without having a bet.

Once upon a time it was about who won or lost.

Now it's also about how many corners, yellow cards and red cards.

Gambling advertising is everywhere. It was reported in The Guardian that a total of 90 minutes of advertising — the duration of an entire game — were show on ITV during the the World Cup last year in Russia.

And this was one and half times more than the amount of ads for alcohol and fast food.

The advent of technology means that it has become a free for all and virtually no rules apply in terms of what you can bet on, when and where.

In the Ireland of the relatively recent past the bookie shop wasn’t open at night or before the afternoon.

And never on a Sunday.

You couldn't bet on a game as it was taking place, but now “in play betting" is an industry within an industry.

In a sense the industry is cannibalising itself.

All you need is a phone and access to wifi to gamble on anything across the globe — so the shops will become less important.

It’s a 24-7 business and for many participants (including yours truly) there are too many betting options.

Stewart Kenny thinks so.

He was one of the founders of Paddy Power and served as the head honcho. He felt the need to resign from the board of Paddy Power because not enough was being done to tackle the problems created by gambling.

To be fair, gambling is optional and the bookies have made some efforts to address the problems by promoting Responsible Gambling Week which urges to customers to think about their habits.

The Boylesports store in Naas, for example, promoted this very well There's a gambling helpline number on every docket issued.

You can ban yourself from the shops, and literature about responsible gambling is readily available in the shops.

Some €1.2 billion was lost by gamblers in Ireland in 2016.

That puts us in third place on this global biggest losers list — behind Australia and Singapore and, oddly enough, just ahead of Finland. It is a shocking figure for a country with the population we have. And we are losing much more than our neighbours in the UK, who have similar entertainment pursuits as ourselves.

It’s estimated there are 100,000 problem gamblers in Ireland. And it’s hard to know how accurate that figure is because gambling can be carried on in complete secrecy.

The odds are, though, we have a problem.