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Problem Gambling

Nearly 30% of Irish 16-year-olds say they gambled within the previous year

A new report looks into gambling among Irish teenagers.

CLOSE TO 30% of Irish 16-year-old boys gambled within the previous year when asked, with teenage boys far more likely to engage in problem gambling than girls.

The report also found that over one in five 16-year-olds who had gambled in the past year were getting into difficulty controlling their gambling. Just under 20% felt the need to bet more money, while just over 8% reported lying to important people about how much money they gambled.

The report – Children and gambling – evidence to inform regulation and responses in Ireland – was published today by the Institute of Public Health (IPH) and Tobacco Free Research Institute (TFRI).

It analysed the survey responses of 1,949 Irish 16-year-olds, who were asked about their gambling activities in 2019. The survey into gambling habits is conducted in 35 European countries.


Just under a quarter of 16-year-olds in Ireland reported that they had gambled for money in the previous year. The rate was higher among boys (28.2%) than girls (17.9%).

Of those who had reported gambling in the previous year, 10.3% experienced excessive gambling, while 5.6% met the criteria for problem gambling. 

In general, boys were far more likely to experience problem gambling, mirroring similar patterns in adults.

The report found that about 80% of 16-year-olds who gambled in the previous year and were experiencing excessive or problem gambling were boys.

Among those who gambled in the last year, it was close to three times more likely that boys would engage in excessive gambling than girls.

Boys were also more likely to gamble online, bet on sports or animals, and gamble excessively than girls.

The Irish findings were broadly in line with the European average.

‘Framing the findings’

Commenting to TheJournal, IPH Director of Policy Dr Helen McAvoy said that there are “lots of different ways to frame the problem” of boys gambling more.

“It’s about a problematic product that’s being marketed and promoted in problematic ways,” she said.

“In a sense gambling products and the entry pathways into gambling are often linked with football and sport and boxing and all sort of different things. There are lots of gateways… there are a lot of gendered promotions and marketing.

You can conceptualise it as a problem with boys and men or you can conceptualise it as a problem in the way that boys and men are exposed to the products marketed to them and engaged.

Dr McAvoy said that she hoped the research “will start shedding some light on the reality of underage gambling activity”.

The Gambling Regulation Bill 2022 was published last year, and is expected to be passed through the Dáil before the end of the year.

One enacted, it will introduce Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland (GRAI) is a new statutory body that will be responsible for the licensing and regulation of gambling services in Ireland. One of the proposed provisions of the law will be a ban on gambling ads before 9pm.

Dr McAvoy said that improved age verification measures and testing to combat online gambling are some of the key measures needed to reduce gambling among younger people.

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