Betting giants are 'still targeting our young people'
Senior Fianna Fail TD calls for urgent action after warning that 'gambling is out of control'
Young people continue to be targeted by the gambling industry and action is urgently needed to curb the practice, Fianna Fail children's spokesperson, Anne Rabbitte, has said.
The Government's plan to appoint a regulator to police gambling in Ireland cannot be enacted within the lifetime of the present administration because of time constraints, said the Galway East TD.
"Gambling is out of control in Ireland. The worst aspect of the link between gambling and sports is that gambling on sports has become normalised. We accept one has to go with the other and we think it's okay. But our young people are continuously targeted by the gambling industry.
"People who have a smartphone are being enticed on a daily and hourly basis to place free bets and we saw that recently with racing in Cheltenham 'free bets' or 'get €5 off a bet' to suck you in.
"It's the small temptation of the €5 bet that the 16-year-old can actually relate to. It starts as young as 16.
"While the Government raised the age to 18 for legal betting in recent years, there are no enforceable age limits for online betting because it is not regulated. There is no online gambling regulation in Ireland whatsoever," Ms Rabbitte told the Sunday Independent.
"When a person is under the influence of drinks or drugs, you can tell - but with gambling you can't. So it is a silent addiction. And it is wrecking people's lives, wrecking people's marriages and wrecking people's homes."
She said it was shocking that there was not enough support available for people addicted to gambling.
Ms Rabbitte, Fianna Fail's justice spokesperson Jim O'Callaghan, and TD Jack Chambers authored gambling control legislation which advanced to the committee stage.
The Government's Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill 2019 was merely replacing the Fianna Fail bill and would result in long delays in introducing much-needed new laws, she said.
The Minister of State with responsibility for gambling regulation, David Stanton, announced last week that the Government had approved the establishment of an Irish gambling regulatory authority.
It would be independent and operate under the auspices of the Department of Justice and Equality. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar conceded that work in bringing it in would take 18 months.
Mr Stanton said the new legal moves to regulate gambling aimed to "ensure that it will provide enhanced consumer protection for players while limiting to the greatest extent possible the harmful effects on young people and those who may be susceptible to addiction".
He added that the value of the Irish gambling market was now between €6bn and €8bn annually.
l It was reported last week that a new body to help tackle gambling addiction and the problems caused by gaming is to receive €1m a year from the Irish Bookmakers Association.
The Gambling Awareness Trust will reportedly work to fund research into problem gambling and to provide information campaigns for agencies.