Well, according to data published on February 28 by the country’s health research board, there are at least 40,000 problem gamblers in Ireland. This represents just 0.8 percent of the population and contrasts the 2.3 percent figure that was recently posted by researchers from Northern Ireland. The contradictions between these to two separate findings have been very controversial, to say the least with the opposition saying that the data published by the government is “flawed” and can therefore not be used as an accurate basis for the formation of any policies.
“Is the government honestly saying that the problem gambling rate in Dundalk is 0.8%, but the problem gambling rate in Newry is 2.3%? … The south of Ireland has the highest online gambling losses in the world per capita and the third highest gambling losses overall per capita and Fine Gael want us to believe it is not a problem,” Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly said
The government has since responded by decreeing that there will be further research within the next 12 months – this will greatly assist and guide its understanding of the issues pertaining to gambling in the country. Still, one thing that both the opposition and the government can agree on is the fact that a significant portion of the country’s population is involved in some form of gambling and this means that there is a need for regulatory and consumer protection measures.
Perhaps an even more pressing issue is the fact a worrying number of the people who have access to gambling services are underage. As it turns out, about a tenth of all 15-17-year-olds in the country have access to some form of gambling services with the most common ones being lottery ticket and scratch card gambling. This means that about 1 out of 10 the underage people within the specified age brackets have participated in some form of horse-racing or dog-racing betting in the recent past.
Surprisingly, these underage gamblers seem to be making these bets from the forbidden land-based gambling service providers – it is, apparently, more challenging for them to access the same services on the plethora of online gambling sites around. As interesting as the fact that online gambling regulation in Ireland ins more robust than land-based gaming regulation may be, it goes without saying that this a problem that needs to be solved and the relevant authorities are going to need a considerable amount of help to ensure that viable solutions are arrived at.
The Irish National Lottery has already issued a statement acknowledging the findings. The organization has further affirmed its willingness to cooperate with authorities to curb the issue.