Today, I wrote to the members of the Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Green Party negotiating teams, to ask that they ensure that Gambling Regulation is part of the new Programme for Government.
"I am writing to you, as a member of [your party's] negotiating team, to ask that you and your colleagues please ensure that the establishment of a Gambling Regulatory Authority is part of the new Programme for Government.
Both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have committed to this in their manifestos. A Gambling Regulatory Authority would be self-financing, through licence fees, fines and levies. As such it would place no additional burden on the Exchequer, during these challenging financial times for our country. Any set-up costs could be recouped, over time, through (for example) any fines levied on gambling operators.
There are between 30,000 and 40,000 people with gambling problems in Ireland. It is estimated that, for every person with a gambling problem, an additional 8-10 people are adversely affected. The HSE stated that they only worked with 230 people with gambling problems in 2019. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Our free counselling service, in Waterford and Dublin, which launched in July 2019, worked with 98 people in its first 6 months of operation (with just two counsellors). At the start of lockdown we had over 50 people on the waiting list for Dublin.
A Social Fund - a mandatory levy on industry turnover – as outlined in the Heads of Fine Gael’s Gambling Control Bill, would fund urgently needed treatment, prevention and research in the area of problem gambling. Research from other parts of the world has shown a massive increase in online casino gambling, during the Covid 19 lockdown. This is a far more addictive form of gambling and, as such, we expect to see an increased need for supports in the coming months and years."
Barry Grant, Founder - Problem Gambling Ireland
Over the last number of weeks, I like many of the clients that I work with, have been reflecting on gambling behavior and addiction. A few weeks ago. I was working on a couple of projects in regard to education and awareness and as part of this work I was examining my betting history. My betting history is a 1106-page document detailing my online bets and activity. It is with one Gambling Company and comprises of 6934 bets that were transacted through one account.
Tony10… customer ID 169967
I was looking for patterns and behaviours that highlight various aspects that can potentially lead to a gambling addiction. These include game design, betting in running, gambling with credit and the concepts of the chase/losses disguised as wins. I was bamboozled by the numbers and the sheer scale of the gambling. I was shocked by the events that I ended up gambling on. I reflected on how I let it get that bad. But mostly, I was very taken aback by my emotional reaction to it all. I found that I was reliving the trauma and emotional experience that I lived through for months while hiding and trying to gamble my way out of trouble. Similar to when working with trauma, I was trying to reach out to the side of me that got gripped by this madness and ‘put a compassionate arm’ around that side of me that still hurts, still feels extreme shame and guilt.
All the responsible gambling messages and ads tell you to ‘stop when the fun stops’, ‘know and set limits’, ‘only gamble what you can afford to lose’, ‘take a break’, ‘think about what you are doing’ and never chase your loses. The only thought that I had while in the grips of a gambling addiction was ‘How Do I Fix This’ and ‘How Do I Stop This Pressure and Madness in My Head’. I was out of control and couldn’t think rationally and ‘Be Responsible’.
Looking back now I accept full responsibility and have lost a lot because of gambling but staring at my history that Saturday afternoon I started to get more and more angry at the lack of controls and protection that I wasn’t afforded as a customer. I wondered what would have happened if there was regulation in Ireland back when I was gambling, and if it may have made a difference to me if I had been educated about the dangers of gambling while in school (in the same way that I was about Drugs and Alcohol).
I can’t go back and change what I did and undo the pain that I caused so many by my actions but I have tried to become a better person and try on a daily basis to help people who are struggling with gambling addiction. The one thing that frustrates me most is that 9 years on from when my story broke, little has changed. We badly need regulation and education in Ireland regarding gambling addiction. Hopefully, when the next Government is formed and after we work through these uncertain times, we will finally get the 2013 Gambling Control Bill enacted and the regulation in place which is so badly needed in Ireland. Gambling addiction like so many other behavioural addictions is a ticking time bomb, and in my opinion, growing and growing even in these dark days when everything else has come to a standstill.
Tony O'Reilly is an Addiction Counsellor with Problem Gambling Ireland and the co-author of 'Tony10'.
Do you want to help support people affected by problem gambling?
Please share this post and consider making a donation.
In January 2016, I set up the website, www.problemgambling.ie. The aim was to provide a resource for people affected by gambling-related harm in Ireland, that was independent of the gambling industry. Our website traffic has been steadily growing, along with emails, texts and calls to our helpline. Yesterday, as Gamble Aware Ireland closed down, they redirected their website traffic to our site (with our consent). We expect to see a substantial increase in calls over the coming months.
In addition to the website and helpline service, we also provide outreach services, in the form of talks, workshops and training, nationwide. Our goal is to have at least one problem gambling specialist providing outreach, counselling and group facilitation services in each county.
Currently, we do not have a core funder, to cover the cost of a full-time helpline service. This means that, at present, we can only provide a 'call-back' service (as I am unable to take calls while I'm with counselling clients or delivering outreach). Our fundraising goal for 2018 is €96,000. This would cover the cost of two full-time staff to provide a full-time helpline and outreach service. It would also be used to cover travel and other related costs on the outreach service.
When I tell people what I do for a living, someone will usually say: 'You should get the bookies to pay for that'. And, of course there is a logic to that sentiment: the industry that creates the addictive product should pay to clean up 'their mess'. At a superficial level, this kind of makes sense. The problem with this approach, though, is that addiction services end up working for an industry that they are (or should be) in direct conflict with. International research has shown that between 40% and 60% of gambling industry profits come from people with gambling problems. There is no business in the world that would willingly exclude half of its customers.
Pope Francis recently said: “Gambling companies finance campaigns to care for the pathological gamblers that they create. And the day that the weapons industry finances hospitals to care for the children mutilated by their bombs, the system will have reached its pinnacle.” Scrape the surface and the conflict of interest is quite clear.
The Irish Government does not have a funding stream for problem gambling services. The HSE Service Plan does not mention the word 'gambling' once. Our proposal (in collaboration with the Rutland Center) that a portion of the Betting Duty, which brings in roughly €50 million per year, could be allocated to problem gambling services (instead of the Horse Racing & Greyhound Fund) was unsuccessful.
In short, we need your help.
A monthly donation of €10 per month from 800 people (or €5 per month from 1600 people) would have a radical impact on our ability to support the thousands of people in Ireland who are affected by gambling-related harm, as well as helping us to deliver preventative interventions to at-risk groups (children and young people, in particular).
In Ireland, 1 in 10 of us will be affected by gambling-related harm in our lifetimes. Half of the people who contact our service are family members in distress.
If you would like to help support people affected by problem gambling in Ireland, you can donate here: https://www.problemgambling.ie/donate.html
Barry Grant, CEO, Problem Gambling Ireland
Problem Gambling Ireland is a registered charity. RCN: 20154738
The Gambling Industry seem to want to place the onus for responsible gambling solely with their customers. It would be nice to see industry members taking responsibility for operating ethically. At present, bookmakers in Ireland take bets on children's sporting events. The GAA have made a proposal to government that the Gambling Control Bill, the Heads of which were published in 2013, would legislate against gambling on juvenile sports. In the meantime, the Gambling Industry could and should do the decent thing and end this practice voluntarily. However, in a statement to the Irish Tines yesterday, both Paddy Power and Boyle Sports refused to do so.
In a research paper into problem gambling in Ireland, published by UCD last year, they found that problem gambling in adolescents was 2-3 times that of adults. Gambling on the outcome of children's sports only serves to introduce minors to the world of gambling, which, of course, benefits the Gambling Industry while also increasing the potential for gambling-related harm.
An excellent article in yesterday's Guardian newspaper (06.01.16) claims that the Chair of the UK's Responsible Gambling Trust (RGT) - a charity funded by the gambling industry - lobbied on behalf of that industry.
Just like the alcohol industry in Ireland, the gambling industry encourages you to 'enjoy gambling responsibly' and directs you to the Gamble Aware website (the alcohol equivalent being Drink Aware). Alcohol addiction has an independent organisation with 'teeth' - Alcohol Action Ireland - ready to take on the vested interests, lobby government and actively raise awareness. To date, there has been no such organisation dedicated to gambling addiction in Ireland.
The Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation (Australia) have launched an online service to help people with problem gambling issues to work towards recovery. As the name suggests, it is a 100 day program. The service requires a very simple registration (email required). Simply click on the link to get started: www.fightforyou.com.au
The main elements of the program are:
Barry Grant, Addiction Counsellor, Founder.