Gambling is a pastime which many Irish people enjoy. It is deeply ingrained in our culture. In fact, Ireland has the third-highest gambling losses, per person – in the world. While, for the majority of people who gamble, it is a relatively harmless bit of fun, there are many who experience harm from gambling. Problem Gambling (Gambling Addiction) is estimated to affect up to 40,000 people in Ireland. For every person with a gambling problem, there are estimated to be a further 8-10 people affected, meaning that there could be up to 400,000 people in Ireland feeling the negative impact of gambling-related harm.
Third-level students are a particularly at-risk group for potentially developing a gambling problem. The Irish Institute of Public Health found that adolescent gambling in Ireland is 2-3 times greater than that of adults. Anyone who has ever listened to the stories high-profile Irish problem gamblers in recovery (Oisin McConville, Niall McNamee, Davy Glennon), will have noticed that they all started out around the ages of 14 or 15. What began for them as a relatively harmless pastime had developed into an addiction by the time they had finished secondary school.
As a student at Third Level, you may find yourself in a new living situation, which can lend itself to developing a gambling problem:
• If you are living away from home for the first time, you no longer have people around you who know you really well and who can spot changes in your mood or behaviours.
• You may be managing your own finances for the first time.
• You are probably living on a tight budget.
• If you are in your late teens or early twenties, you are biologically predisposed towards more impulsive acts than older adults.
Some students may see gambling as a way to get out of financial difficulties, particularly if they have had a big win in the past. This is one of the most common tragic delusions of problem gamblers – that they can gamble their way out of trouble. Listen to the stories of any recovering gambling addict and you will hear a reoccurring thread: whenever they did win, they almost immediately lost it all again.
Since the advent of online gambling, in combination with the development smartphones, problem gambling worldwide has been increasing dramatically. 96% of Irish 15-35 year-olds own a smartphone. This means that they basically have the potential to carry a 24-hour bookmakers shop around in their pocket, all day, every day – simply by downloading one of the many gambling apps. For a generation of young people who have grown up online, this is probably the biggest risk of all. As well as the danger associated with the ‘always on’ accessibility, gambling companies can send ‘free bet’ incentives straight to your phone – particularly if they see that you haven’t been using the app for a while. For a student who is struggling financially, these types of incentives can be difficult to resist. They generally require you to make a deposit into your online account, meaning that if or when you lose the money that the bookmaker has ‘given’ you, you go on to chase your losses with your own money.
Here is some simple advice, if you are gambling:
If you have any questions relating to problem gambling, email info [at] problemgambling.ie or call Barry on 089 241 5401.
Friday 10th Feb 2017: Problem Gambling Ireland CEO & Founder, Barry Grant speaks to Joe about the fact that Ireland is 3rd in the world for gambling losses. Callers discuss the fact that some pubs are taking bets and phoning them in to bookmakers (probably illegally). More on the direct communications and up-selling of National Lottery products, which appears to be in breach of the licence regulations.
Listen here: http://rte.ie/r.html?rii=b9_21129305_53_10-02-2017_
Thursday 9th Feb 2017: More listeners tell Joe that they are asked if they want to buy a lottery ticket when they buy petrol from Topaz. - Mark is a former gambler. He talks about how he quit.
Listen here: http://rte.ie/r.html?rii=b9_21128596_53_09-02-2017_
Wednesday 8th Feb 2017: Gambling has taken its toll on Tommy and Kevin but they are in recovery. Denis is, to all intents and purposes, a professional gambler.
Listen here: http://rte.ie/r.html?rii=b9_21127795_53_08-02-2017_
Tuesday 7th Feb 2017: Stories of gambling addiction and recovery.
Listen here: http://rte.ie/r.html?rii=b9_21127097_53_07-02-2017_
Monday 6th February 2017: Patricia rang Liveline when she found out that her 15-year-old son had lied about his age in order to set up an online betting account. This prompted callers from around the country to share their experiences of gambling addiction.
Listen here: http://rte.ie/r.html?rii=b9_21126459_53_06-02-2017_
It seems fair to say that we live in interesting times. Fine Gael and Fianna Fail's "love that dare not speak its name" has finally come to fruition; a serial-bankrupt, day-glo builder has been selected to rule the world; and a sports-show, funded by a betting firm, discusses gambling addiction three times over the course of one week. If you've been preparing for The Rapture, it's probably time to put on your Sunday best.
The sports-show in question is Newstalk's highly-popular Off The Ball. Last Sunday (27th November), they began their series of discussions with Declan Lynch. Declan had written an article in that day's Irish Independent, entitled: "Is it the right time to derail our gambling supertrain?" Declan has long been at the forefront of raising awareness around gambling addiciton in Ireland and doesn't pull any punches when it comes to highlighting some of the questionable practices of the gambling industry.
At the time, I thought that this was a brave, if somewhat tokenistic move, on the part of the show's producers. Imagine my surprise when, just a few days later (1st December), Ger Gilroy interviewed recovering gambling addict and Tyrone footballer, Cathal McCarron, on the same show. Ger begins by saying: "I think that it's incredibly important that we talk about gambling addiction and about the industry, as well, particularly as, in the sports media, we have a very close relationship with the betting industry and sometimes that can be uncomfortable for us. On a personal level I have seen the devastation that gambling has wreaked on families and on careers." Ger goes on to show himself to be sensitive to, and knowledgable about, the harm caused by gambling addiction.
Just when I was beginning to think that Christmas had come early - ALL of my Christmases came together. This manifested itself in the form of a third discussion on gambling addiction on yesterday's show (3rd December). The panel discussion included Declan Lynch, as well as addiction treatment specialist, Dr Garrett McGovern and recovering substance addict and poker afficionado, John Leonard (AKA, Sober Paddy). The discussion was wide-ranging, intelligent and nuanced. They covered everything from harm-prevention and harm-reduction to the pros and cons of the 12-step treatment model, gambling advertising and the "gamblification" of sport and the sports media. [By "gamblification", I mean the process by which the gambling industry has embedded itself into sporting bodies and media organisations by getting them hooked on their cold, hard cash.]
By the end of the week, I had to take a long, hard look at myself. This no longer looked, sounded or smelled like tokenistic box-ticking from Off The Ball. In fact, this had the whiff of a group of people who might actually genuinely care about the harm that is caused by gambling in this country, while also struggling with the fact that they (and many of their colleagues) are overly-dependent on gambling industry funding.
As an addiction counsellor, I am always looking out for dysfunctional "Black & White Thinking" in my clients. This sort of binary thinking is often a strong indicator of the type of cognitive distortions which can lead to addictions and other issues. "Life is lived in the Grey", I can hear myself saying, over and over again. However, when seeing the harm caused by gambling and other addictions on a regular basis, it can be easy to slip into a Good Guys vs Bad Guys mindset - or, in other words: "If you're not with us, you're agin' us!".
As I work through my own internal conflict on this one, I have to commend Ger Gilroy and the rest of the Off The Ball team on grappling with the Horns of their own Dilemma. It can't be easy to watch the increasing harm caused by gambling in Irish society, while at the same time deal with the financial realities of commercial radio. At least by acknowledging that the "close relationship" can be "uncomfortable" for them, they, to my mind, are making a step in the right direction. As workers in the addiction field will often tell you, "The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem".
Discussion on gambling starts around half-way through the clip.
Barry Grant has been awarded a Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Elevator award at
the ceremony on Tuesday, the 11th October. Barry Grant’s organisation, Problem Gambling Ireland
focusses on raising public awareness of gambling addiction as an escalating public health issue.
They provide online resources, pay-what-you-want counselling services and gambling-harm
prevention workshops. The prize consists of €30,000 in funding to expand and grow the business.
A further five organisations also received this funding and support in the Elevator Award category.
They were Sam Synnott and Judith Ashton from Buddy Bench Ireland, Alex Cooney and Cliona
Curley from Cyber Safe Ireland, Shane McKenna and Killian Redmond from Dabbledoo Music, Noelle
Daly and Stephen Cluskey from Mobility Mojo and Francis Cleary from Step Out Ireland.
Through this awards ceremony, three social entrepreneurs have each been awarded funding and
support worth €140,000. Lakers, A Lust for Life and Recreate were chosen for this highest level
Speaking about the award, Barry Grant said; ‘Winning a Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Elevator Award
means a huge amount to me, personally, and to Problem Gambling Ireland, as an organisation. It
has shown me that there are experts in the field of social enterprise who believe we have the
capacity to make a positive impact on Irish society and to scale our service nationally.’
Over the last twelve years, Social Entrepreneurs Ireland has invested over €6.7 million in social
entrepreneurs and 1,230 employment opportunities have been created in the process. This
programme is sponsored by Irish company DCC plc, who have been the flagship sponsor of the
Awards for the last six years and earlier this year pledged its commitment to Social Entrepreneurs
Ireland until 2019, continuing its financial support with a further €700,000 in funding over this
CEO of DCC Tommy Breen said “DCC is proud to be a long term sponsor of the Social Entrepreneurs
Ireland Elevator and Impact Award programmes. It is a great privilege to play a role in getting
behind Ireland’s brightest and most ambitious entrepreneurs working to have a positive impact on
Darren Ryan CEO of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland said “Social entrepreneurs are problem solvers.
Whenever the current system is too slow, inadequate or missing, a social entrepreneur will roll up
their sleeves and take action. The social entrepreneurs awarded today are all pioneering new
solutions to some of society’s biggest challenges. With the ongoing commitment of DCC plc, we will
back these entrepreneurs to take risks and be brave in pursuing ideas to solve Ireland’s social
The awards ceremony, which took place in the Mansion House, Dublin, was hosted by Joan
Freeman, the founder of Pieta House, and John Evoy, the founder of the Irish Men’s Sheds
Association, who are both former recipients of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Awards.
They say knowledge is power, and a lack of psychology knowledge is one reason people can feel so
powerless in the fight against addiction.
Gambling Disorder was included for the first time in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Since the release of the DSM-5 in 2013, gambling disorder
(also called problem gambling or gambling addiction) has received increased attention by psychology
Here are five recent findings that can help empower people who struggle with problem gambling.
1.Gambling Addiction Affects the Brain Like a Drug
It was once believed that gambling addiction was primarily a matter of impulse control, and caused
neurological changes similar to disorders like OCD. However, recent research supports a model of
gambling addiction as more similar to substance abuse – as though gambling were an actual drug.
Using this model of gambling addiction, scientists have found numerous parallels between gambling
addiction and substance abuse. An article published by Scientific American reveals that gamblers and
drug addicts share many underlying genetic predispositions for impulsive and reward seeking
Also, both gambling and drug addiction can directly cause the brain to produce less dopamine and
fire fewer electrical signals during a high, causing addicts to seek greater gambling risks or increased
2.Women Perceive Gambling Differently Than Men
While there is no doubt that gambling addiction causes physical changes to the body and brain, it is
easy to ignore social forces that contribute to the development of problem gambling.
Recent social psychology research supported the idea that women are generally more aware than
men of the negative social consequences of gambling, and thus more likely to stop a gambling
episode before problems arise. This finding may partially explain why female addicts generally begin
gambling in their 30s, whereas men are more likely to begin in adolescence.
3.Nearly Winning Reinforces Gambling Addiction
A recent article in the journal Neuropsychophramacology showed that almost winning can foster an
illusion of control that drives further gambling. The researchers showed that gambling addicts also
demonstrate increased neurochemical response in the ventral striatum – part of the reward pathway
of the brain – when they experience a near win.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), often used for drug addicts, is frequently prescribed to problem
gamblers to combat the influence of the near win. Using CBT, gambling addicts learn to confront the
“Gambler’s Fallacy” that nearly winning indicates they are about to win, and means they should
continue to gamble.
4.Gambling Behaviour Changes Based On Your Mood
Participants in this study performed a task designed to simulate the experience of gambling.
Participants were first given €2000 of play money to gamble with. In order to succeed in the task,
participants had to make gut-level decisions on whether to take cards from one deck or another.
The researchers found that after losing money, participants who were in a bad mood were less able
to make decisions based on their gut feelings, and ended up losing even more money.
The researchers then repeated the study, this time manipulating mood. Participants watched either a
funny video clip from The Muppet Show, or a sad scene from Schindler’s List. The Schindler’s List
group lost more money than those who had watched the Muppets.
These experiments support the idea that being in a bad mood or experiencing something that puts
you in a bad mood while gambling can significantly impair your ability to make healthy decisions
about how much gambling to do, and when to stop.
5.Being Physically Motionless Can Help You Stop Gambling
Researchers have also taken an interest in effective strategies for controlling gambling behaviour. A
study published last year supported the idea that there is a motor component of compulsive
gambling. Anyone who has gambled is familiar with the physical urge to reach out one’s hand and
pull the slot machine lever or to click the “Deal” button in an online poker app.
Researchers demonstrated that introducing a “stop” signal, in which gamblers simply force
themselves to be physically still, can reduce the urge to continue gambling and lead to improved
outcomes of a gambling episode.
Gambling addiction is a serious problem, and increasing in prevalence in the UK, the United States,
and throughout the world. Psychology researchers are answering the call, and adding to our
understanding of how gambling addiction works.
By increasing knowledge and awareness, we can combat gambling addiction and help empower
people everywhere struggling with gambling disorder.
Marcus regularly blogs at psysci.co a psychology, science and health blog that examines the latest
research and explains how findings can impact and help individuals everyday lives.
Really excellent article from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). It defines gambling addiction (pathological gambling/gambling disorder) as well as looking at screening (diagnostic) tools, treatment options and prevention. Definitely worth a read (6 pages, PDF). You can download it here.
The above topic is something that has been highlighted in the media in recent weeks. Is it an issue that has only recently come to fruition? – absolutely not. They say timing in life is everything and that is what led me to contact. Problem Gambling Ireland.
I will begin by introducing myself. My name is Justin and I have been in recovery for a gambling addiction since 03/03/15. Yes, that is my real name – honesty was one of the toughest lessons I have had to learn along the way. I have often searched online for various elements of support and have found them hard to come by. I felt I had reached a point in my recovery where I craved something different, something new. Counselling and regular attendance of Gamblers Anonymous meetings, alongside determination and a number of ‘white knuckle rides’ are what have led me to this point in my recovery. I like to read about ‘real life’ and current stories of how people are finding their recovery. Challenges that they are facing and more importantly how they are over coming these challenges. Reading a couple of the blog posts on this website gave me exactly what I needed. It is a mark of how recovery can change your life. Once upon a time, that insatiable craving was for the exciting and dangerous. Now it is to sit down and read about the exploits of others – it saves me a fortune! This blog post is not about me. This blog post is, as the title suggests, about the current issue regarding the effect of gambling on our youth. I will however draw on my previous experiences to highlight my unfortunate expertise in the area of problem gambling.
As mentioned above, recent news articles have highlighted the extremely loose regulation surrounding gambling on underage sports in Ireland. It was great to see our minister for Sport, Michael Ring publicly condemning the ‘loop hole’ that currently exists within legislation. He is a man that I bear no affiliation towards but I hope amongst hope that his strong words will be taken seriously. Unfortunately, but rather predictably, these comments were made on the back of a negative story which had appeared in the media shortly before that. This detailed the actions of a young inter-county footballer who had gambled on his own team to lose a match. Was this a shock? No. Was this the first time? Probably not. The fact is that most problem gamblers will bet on two flies walking up the wall. A certain bookmaker took this a step further a number of years ago by using that image in a marketing campaign. I am not here to blame bookmakers. Yes, I truly believe that they can do much, much more to shoulder responsibility of our current gambling epidemic in Ireland but more importantly, help to prevent it by acting in a more ethical way.
When I read the article regarding gambling on underage sports in Ireland it struck a chord with me. As a gambler, every now and then you have a good day. I used to think that a good day would be defined by the amount of money you won or the ‘touch’ you pulled off. As time went on, I learned that this was not necessarily always the case. As a gambler, I also recognise that my memory can be quite selective. I have forgotten many of the bad days – stealing from parents, friends and anyone that crossed my path. I remember one day very vividly. It was 17/03/2005. A number of weeks previous to this day, a group of us had placed (extremely small bets) on a school to win the Leinster Senior Cup at barely double digit odds. The final was to be played on St. Patrick’s Day and was being televised from what is currently the Aviva Stadium. The potential returns were very modest – not even stretching to a meal for 1 in the city centre. That wasn’t the point. At the time it never registered with me that we were in fact betting against our own team and I was playing in that competition. Now let’s be honest about it – we were not due to play the team in question and we most certainly were not going to make it anywhere near the final. The sun was out, it was St. Patrick’s Day, all of the lads were willing the result home. It was a bit of fun for everyone in the room except for me. I was 17 at the time, turning 18 two months later. I had been gambling in a very serious way since I was 15 – I was a seasoned pro. I should mention that the day that we had placed the bets, a number of us had piled into a local bookmaker’s in our school uniforms – nothing was said. We asked for odds on a schools competition – nothing was said. Would it have stopped us? No chance.
I work in a business that demands results. We have procedures and process’ in place to achieve these results. I am under no illusion that each and every betting shop in this country are under pressure from their respective companies to achieve business KPIs [Key Performance Indicators]. No doubt these include increasing footfall and driving turnover. Being turned away on the day was never going to happen. We were the future customers of that particular shop. In the end, I remained loyal to that shop for 8 years. I was destined to be a customer either way.
That was ten years ago and how things have changed since then. That group of 17 year olds no longer need to go to the hassle of leaving their seat to place that bet. They now have a betting terminal in their pocket. Online gambling has and continues to explode in popularity in Ireland. In a society where people crave to be accepted we tend to follow others rather than setting the pace. Many people can place a bet, enjoy it and leave it at that. I used to call them the lucky ones. Recovery has taught me that I have potential to be the ‘lucky one’ as long as continue I to learn and understand more about gambling addiction whilst always remaining bet free.
Rugby is the only sport that I have ever gambled on at an underage level. I am aware of GAA, Soccer & Tennis. I am sure that is the tip of the iceberg but I am not willing to visit certain websites to find out. A colleague recently told me that there are odds available online regarding the size of Donald Trump’s manhood – I think that says it all really. The access to gambling on underage sports promotes the idea to our younger generations that it is okay to gamble. Youngsters are competitive by nature and also very smart. Is there an opportunity here for manipulation of results? Will we see the opportunists come to the fore and become involved in fixing results. I am not sure that this will happen but one thing I am sure of is that a problem gambler is capable of anything.
I don’t believe that gambling on underage sports will be solely responsible for producing the next conveyor belt of problem gamblers in Ireland. It will however ensure that gambling is seen as the norm among teenagers and this is extremely dangerous. We live in an age dominated by social media and interaction ‘friends’ whether it be through Facebook or dating websites such as Tinder. The desire and ability to interact with others will be the first sign that a teenager is in trouble regarding gambling. Withdrawing from social situations becomes the norm and then a necessity when funds run out. I truly believe that I ceased growing as a person the day I placed my first bet and only truly began to grow again upon entering recovery.
Resources in Ireland are currently at bursting point regarding gambling addiction. If you line five people up against the wall you can spot the drug addict, alcoholic etc. It is very difficult to spot the gambler. The times that we live in ensure that our teenagers spend a lot of their time online – only a number of clicks away from their next bet.
I am a man who lost what could and should have been the best years of my life to gambling. I am also the lucky one who is now getting those years back. I will continue to follow Mr. Ring with interest as he seeks an immediate change in our current legislation.
(Justin has given permission for his name to be published here. I would like to thank Justin for making this submission to our blog, as well as for his honest, brave and articulate account of his own addiction and recovery experience.
Barry Grant, Founder - Problem Gambling Ireland)
We are currently seeking participants for a gambling addiction support group, which will be delivered as an online service. The group will be run on a pilot basis in order to assess the demand for this type of service, as well as its effectiveness. We will initially be looking for 7 participants who feel that their gambling is at a problematic level. The group will be facilitated by me (Barry Grant). I am a qualified addiction counsellor (B.A. Degree in Counselling Skills & Addiction Studies) and a fully accredited member of the Association of Professional Counsellors & Psychotherapists in Ireland (APCP). I am also a qualified SMART Recovery group facilitator.
Participants will need access to a computer, or internet-enabled device (smartphone/tablet) and an internet connection. We plan to run the group on Friday evenings. The meetings will be hosted on this site: https://appear.in/pgimeeting The meeting room is currently 'locked' and will only be open 5 minutes prior to agreed meeting times. The online meeting can be accessed through a web-browser (Chrome or Firefox) or by using the appear.in app, which is available for from the Apple App Store (iPhone/iPad) and from the Google Play Store (Android). Participants can join the meeting anonymously and have the option of communicating via voice, voice & video and/or web-chat.
If you are interested in joining this meeting, please fill out our contact form. This can be done anonymously, however we will need an email address or mobile phone number which we can contact you at in order to let you know when the meetings will begin. We will only ever use your contact details in order to let you know about the first meeting.
Participants will need to be aged 18, or over, and be resident in the Republic of Ireland. This service will be provided free of charge. The meetings will be 90 minutes in duration. The meetings will be operated on a CBT model (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy).
If you have any questions, please fill out the contact form or email: info [at] problemgambling.ie
If you could share this post on social media, it would be greatly appreciated.
Barry Grant - Founder - Problem Gambling Ireland
It's that time of year again. Silly Season for gambling. In case you've been living in a cave with no radio, TV or broadband coverage - the Cheltenham Festival begins next week. What many consider to be the highlight of the horse-racing year on these islands, runs over 4 days (Tuesday to Friday). Despite it being a UK fixture, Cheltenham holds a special place in the hearts of Irish enthusiasts. In fact, its appeal goes far beyond the limits of regular punters and the festival manages to inspire many, who would not bet on horse-racing from one end of the year to the other, to have a 'flutter'. Offices, factories and other workplaces are a-buzz with tips and talk of the winners and losers. This fascination is reflected in (and/or encouraged by) the media. It is practically impossible to listen to any radio station, read a newspaper or watch the TV without hearing talk of gambling. This, of course, is not so strange, considering that horse-racing and betting have been intertwined since time immemorial.
Unfortunately, for recovering gambling addicts (problem gamblers), this time of year is an absolute nightmare. If you don't believe me, try to spend one day between now and March 18th, avoiding all talk of Cheltenham. I'd be very interested to hear how you get on.
In my time working with problem gamblers, they have almost uniformly expressed a sense of impending dread and fear in advance of the Cheltenham Festival. The 'triggers' to relapse (or 'lapse' or 'slip'), which most people in recovery from addictions try so hard to avoid, are omni-present. Short of booking a trip to Ireland's Most Remote Cave, it is practically impossible to avoid hearing constant talk of gambling. And as if that weren't bad enough, bookmakers heavily promote 'Free Bets' of up to €30 for new customers. For some problem gamblers in recovery, these sorts of enticements are the equivalent of a drug dealer putting a bag of heroin through a recovering addict's letterbox.
So, if you are a problem gambler in recovery, what should you do over the coming week?
Here are some suggestions:
Remember, there is no 'one-size-fits-all' approach to recovery. Your recovery journey will be as unique as you are - regardless of whether you are following the 12 Steps, in counselling or 'going it alone'. Do what works for you. Make healthy choices and reap the rewards.
I'm delighted to announce that two new gambling addiction education & treatment programs are now available from Problem Gambling Ireland. Groups of up to 15 participants can be facilitated.
The first program is 2 x 90 minute group sessions for family and friends of problem gamblers, as well as helping professionals and groups that may potentially be vulnerable to gambling addiction. It covers:
Program 1 (2 x 90 minute sessions ) - €550 (up to 15 participants)
Program 2 (4 x 90 minute sessions) - €1100 (up to 15 participants)
For further information, contact Barry on 0876714259 or email info [at] problemgambling.ie
Barry Grant, Addiction Counsellor, Founder.