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Do you know someone with a 'secret' gambling problem?

“Technology has had a profound impact on gambling,” according the authors of a new Irish study.

Image: Shutterstock

Updated at 6.30pm

A NEW STUDY into the impact of gambling in Ireland has looked into why and how people gamble.

Playing Social Roulette: The Impact of Gambling on Individuals and Society in Ireland was launched in Dublin today by Tánaiste Joan Burton.

The UCD research interviewed 22 gamblers (aged 18-64 years) at different stages of recovery for a problem with gambling.

While the study was open to everyone in the republic, only gamblers who had experienced a problem with gambling came forward.

They were largely men (86%), with the study noting it is possible that gambling is “even more secret for women than men because of social stigma related to gender”.

The gamblers most often reported they preferred gambling in person (73%), as well as well as online (18%), via television (5%) and via telephone (4%). Participants reported their primary location for gambling to be the bookmakers’ shops (59%), online (14%), casinos (14%), amusement arcades (4%), lottery and scratchcards (4.5%) and financial schemes (4.5%).

Certain forms of gambling were more popular with particular demographic groups- for example, men with bookmakers and women with bingo.

The Principal Investigator for the study, Dr Crystal Fulton, pointed out that “technology has had a profound impact on gambling and is a gateway to secret, hidden, gambling activities”.

The increase of access to the internet and smartphones has seen a rise of gambling among young people and women. In fact, many problem gamblers often started gambling as teenagers.

Four main categories of gambling emerged from interviews:
• Social gambling
• Problem gambling
• Compulsive or pathological gambling
• Professional gambling

The ‘buzz’

The participants often described their gambling behaviour as something they felt drawn to or compelled to do. They frequently spoke of the “buzz” associated with gambling.

They also noted the need to rationalise their gambling behaviour, explain losses and unpaid bills and to control the people and environment around them so that they could continue to gamble. They acknowledged the selfishness of their behaviour.

As a problem with gambling progressed or became evident, family and friends described the gambler as becoming “agitated, erratic, moody, secretive and uninterested in daily life, family, or taking care of themselves”.

Among the triggers listed for gambling were: seeing the racing page in the newspaper or advertising on television, spending time with friends who gamble and stressful family situations.

Hospital Sites For Development Joan Burton Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

When launching the report, Burton said: “I am very concerned about the social impact of gambling, given that we have a gambling culture in Ireland. Gambling pervades many aspects of Irish life, particularly sporting events. The negative effects on young people growing up in this gambling culture are a particular worry.”

One of the most profound impacts of problem gambling is on families who have to cope with the devastation and stress, compounded by having to deal with serious financial problems. Another alarming finding that the study highlights is the connection between problem gambling and people gambling at a young age.

Burton said the Government intends to promote responsible gambling through the Gambling Control Bill.

The study recommends that a national gambling strategy is put in place urgently.

Read: ‘Would you give out free sachets of coke with a newspaper?’

Read: Senator warns of need to stop ‘Lotto junkies’

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About the author:

Órla Ryan

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