More than 230 people suffering from gambling addiction sought help in the Republic of Ireland last year, figures from the country’s National Drug Treatment Reporting System show.
The reported figure represents a 7% increase on the 217 gambling addicts who were assessed or treated in 2018, it has also emerged.
Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) said that the National Drug Treatment Reporting System’s recently published data is not likely to be capturing the actual image when it comes to the number of people who are treated for gambling problems and addiction in the country throughout the year.
Commenting on the latest figures, Brendan Kelly, a psychiatry professor in Trinity College Dublin said that these are just the tip of the iceberg and that addiction to gambling is actually “far more common than is imagined.”
Professor Kelly elaborated further that the spread of gambling addiction among Ireland’s residents is difficult to measure because there are people who gamble at betting shops and others who buy vast numbers of lottery tickets, “but also there is online gambling, which is very concerning, and gambling by telephone in different age groups.”
This makes it difficult to provide accurate and explicit data on how many people exactly are suffering from problem gambling behavior or gambling addiction.
Calls for Gambling Surveillance Report
Louise O’Reilly, the health spokesperson of Irish republican party Sinn Féin, called for a gambling surveillance report to be conducted so that lawmakers and the society get a better picture of the current situation relating to gambling addiction and problem gambling.
Ms. O’Reilly said that the Department of Health needs to take an accurate picture “because it’s not just an issue around severe gambling addictions, it’s actually around problem gambling.”
According to stats from the National Drug Treatment Reporting System, 93% of all people treated or assessed for problems stemming from excessive gambling between 2015 and 2018 were male.
The Republic of Ireland has long been criticized for lagging behind the United Kingdom and fellow EU members in reorganizing its gambling market and updating its antique gambling laws.
The last time Ireland amended its gambling rules and regulations was back in 1956. However, that was long before the advent of the Internet, and the country’s current gambling law does not really cover digital gambling and other modern-time gambling activities.
Ireland faced particularly heavy criticism earlier this year when the UK Gambling Commission announced that it would implement a ban on credit card gambling. The ban took force in mid-April in the UK and Northern Ireland.
Irish problem gambling organizations called for similar prohibition to be introduced in the country. Barry Grant, the founder of Problem Gambling Ireland, an independent advice service helping people with gambling-related problems, said earlier this year that maxing out credit cards and sinking into debt is among the most common themes among people who seek help from his organization.