Online gambling addiction becoming an epidemic

By Andy Nally

On line betting is leading to a massive increase in gambling addiction amongst young people in Ireland according to a spokesperson  for Gamblers Anonymous. This new form of betting is now a huge business, estimated to be worth €44bn globally this year. While figures for Ireland are not available, economic consultants have estimated that the Irish market is worth about 5% of that, or €2bn.

‘Sean’ a 21year old student from Dublin got hooked on gambling at a young age and is now attending Gamblers Anonymous. The spoke to ‘Sean’ about this addiction. He recalls how at the age of sixteen he began to put on a few “harmless bets”. At that time he was working as a lounge boy “Punters would always have tips so I decided to try my luck, some won, but most lost” he said. It was not long before ‘Sean’ was stealing from his boss and was eventually caught and fired. He explains that he gave up gambling for a while but that all changed when Sean went to pay for medicine for his sick mother with the use of her credit card. He recalls that he copied down her card details and decided to give online gambling a go.

‘Sean’ got addicted to online gambling quickly and described it “as an escape from any everyday problems like college, exams”. He added that he bet on events in the end that he knew nothing about.  He describes that he hit his lowest time gambling when instead of going to see his very sick mother in hospital he spent the money gambling.  In the end his family began disowning him. Sean was encouraged by his mother to attend a meeting of Dublin’s Gamblers Anonymous and decided to try and turn his life around. Since then ‘Sean’ has seen dramatic changes in his life, his mother has passed away and ‘Sean’ lives on his own. He is completing college but  still admits to often thinking of gambling but knows what it would do to him if he ever went back.

The spoke to other individuals who attend the weekly meetings at Gamblers Anonymous and most had gotten addicted to online gambling. ‘Paula’  a professional woman in her thirties  outlined the ease of gambling online , “it is not the same as walking into a bookies and handing cash over the counter. In some ways it was as if you were not dealing in real money at all. I was upping my bets tenfold online. I became a recluse of sorts  and cut off relationships, no one was allowed intrude in my gambling” .

‘John’  who is in his mid-twenties and who works in the IT sector described having three different credit cards for gambling ,which he ‘blew’ along with a credit union loan, in the space of four months while online gambling. He described himself as “a street angel and house devil”. He claims that he was mentally abusive to his wife who at the time knew nothing about his gambling addiction. He managed to hide the bills making sure to meet the postman first thing every morning.

With most people using smart phones, gambling is now available at the click of a button. ‘Take Paddy With You’ for example  is the slogan with which the highly successful bookmaker Paddy Power markets its mobile betting operation encouraging people to “ Just tuck him inside your mobile phone, or onto your iPad. But most of all, take him in your head, where he can pop out every now and again, tap you on the shoulder, and whisper that it’s time for a flutter”. Paddy Power is just one of a large number of betting operations which market online betting. Like many of the bigger betting companies it now carries ‘responsible gambling’ advice on its website.

When it comes to Ireland the found that the current gambling legislation is based on the Betting Act 1931, which caters for taxation on gambling, and the Gaming and Lotteries Act of 1956 .The only adjustment of note came in 2001 when the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act abolished the prohibition on the placing of bets by people within the jurisdiction with bookmakers outside. This facilitates the operation of online gambling through companies locating the online server offshore, although it has never been tested.

Minister of Justice Alan Shatter is expected to publish a bill later this year, and it will be co-ordinated with an amended betting bill from the Department of Finance. Together, these bills are expected to point the way towards a proper regulatory framework in the state for online gambling.

There is no tax take from online gambling at the moment.

Gamblers Anonymous Contact Details

Dublin 01 872 1133

Cork 087 2859 552

Galway 086 3494450

Waterford 086 3683538


  1. Great story! Ireland needs this like a hole in the head! It follows in succession, after the abuse of alcohol problem and obesity crisis!

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