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Labour calls for ban on free bets from bookies as they act as 'introduction to gambling' for young people

A Bill proposed by Senator Mark Wall would ban gambling advertisements in Ireland.

Labour's Mark Wall speaking to reporters earlier.
Labour's Mark Wall speaking to reporters earlier.
Image: Sam Boal

THE OFFER OF free bets from gambling companies to customers should be banned, the Labour Party has said.

In launching a new survey on attitudes and experiences of gambling today, Senator Mark Wall said the offer of free bets was being targeted at young people as their “introduction to gambling” which can lead to problems in the future.

The online survey of 1,170 respondents carried out by Labour found that 73.5% of people said they know someone who’s a problem gambler in Ireland.

Four in five (80%) said they’re in favour of a ban on gambling advertising while the same proportion of people said they’d noticed a recent increase in gambling adverts. 

One in four (25%) said they gambled once a month or more, while 7.4% of respondents said they gamble over ten times a month. 

Long-awaited gambling legislation in Ireland looks set to finally be enacted by the government later in the year. This would introduce a dedicated gambling regulator, provide a social fund to support problem gamblers and potentially curb advertising of gambling products. 

Labour has put forward a bill that would ban all gambling advertisements in Ireland in order to “divorce the gambling industry from the enjoyment of everyday sports”. 

Senator Wall said: “The stresses of Covid-19 have challenged the resilience and coping strategies of us all, but particularly individuals with addictions who are finding it even harder to continue in their recovery and avoid relapse.

“With people staying at home, cutting social contacts and having more time on their hands, it is almost inevitable that problem gambling will continue to rise, especially given current online gambling availability. The College of Psychiatrists of Ireland has already indicated a concerning rise in gambling disorder referrals since the Covid lockdowns due to the higher levels of targeted online advertising.

There’s nothing wrong with the occasional flutter, the problem we have is where the industry is aggressively targeting people, creating a behavioural addiction in vulnerable people. The State needs to step in to stop this.

The senator told reporters today that there’d been a bombardment of gambling advertising in the run up to Cheltenham and that the focus should be on the sport itself rather than the gambling aspect. 

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Wall said: “I want to put it on record again that the Labour Party is not against gambling. The story this week is [star jockey] Rachael Blackmore. That’s the sports story this week… That’s what we should be talking about. It shouldn’t be about betting or about gambling. 

We’re really worried where this is going… the families that have broken up, the houses that have been lost. 

Wall said that Labour’s bill on gambling advertising should implemented as quickly as possible, before the government’s long-awaited gambling legislation sometime later this year.

Labour leader Alan Kelly added: “It’s everywhere. It’s on your television, on your phone. It’s very targeted. With free bets. With ads customised towards what you’re watching. It’s very dangerous.”

About the author:

Sean Murray

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