Three in every four Irish people know at least one person with a gambling addiction

Senator Mark Wall
19 March 2021
  • 80% in favour of a ban on gambling advertising
  • 80% have noticed a recent increase in gambling ads
  • 63% agree that ads make them more likely to gamble
  • 25% gambling once a month or more

Research carried out by the Labour Party has found that almost three quarters (73.5%) of Irish people know a problem gambler. These findings come following the launch of a Labour Party Bill which would ban gambling advertising. With almost two thirds (63.3%) of people agreeing that ads acted as a catalyst to gamble or place a bet, it is clear that there is an urgent need to end the gambling industry’s control in Ireland and end this manipulation.

The industry has used the pandemic to increase its advertising spend in the country, with 80% noting a marked increase in gambling ads recently. As the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland indicates there is a concerning rise in gambling disorders referrals since Covid the ‘lockdowns’, there can be no delay in enacting legislation to protect those vulnerable to developing an addiction.

Labour’s Gambling (Prohibition of Advertising) Bill 2021, would ban all gambling advertisement in Ireland, divorcing the gambling industry from the everyday enjoyment of sports, politics and entertainment. With 80% of respondents stating that they would welcome a blanket ban on ads, the time to act is now.

Publishing the results, Labour sports spokesperson Senator Mark Wall said:

“It’s clear from these findings that we have a national problem with gambling in this country. It’s hugely concerning to think that three out of every four people know someone with a gambling problem. We are facing a mental health tsunami thanks to the gambling industry. We need to put controls in place now to protect those who are vulnerable to behaviour addiction. Our Bill would ban all ads to help end the cycle of addiction.

“The gambling industry has worked hard to create a strong link in our minds between major sports events and betting. These ads are pushing people to gamble – 63% reported that seeing an ad makes them more likely to place a bet. The gambling companies are driving this addictive behaviour.

“This week has been very hard for anyone with an issue as we’ve been bombarded online and in the media with gambling ads in the run up to Cheltenham. 80% of people responding to our consultation have noticed an increase in the ads in recent times. It’s clear that the industry is using lock down and social isolation as an opportunity to exploit those who may have a problem.

“There have been big changes in recent years in the ease with which people can gamble due to the smartphone. Whereas previously there was some limit to the damage that could be caused as a result of people having to go to betting shops, now any person can gamble any amount of money on their phone.

“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.

“Gambling addiction has been a silent issue for too long, and since the Labour Party published our Bill there’s been great attention and engagement on the issue online, as well as in the media and we’re proud to have opened up this conversation. Labour’s Bill wants to beat the ads and end the cycle of pain experienced by problem gamblers throughout the country.”


1,170 responded to the online consultation carried out from February 17th to March 14th.

Other findings include:

  • 7.4% are gambling over ten times a month
  • A quarter of respondents gamble once a month or more
  • Horse racing is the sport most frequently gambled on (46.8%)
  • 63% agree that ads make them more likely to gamble
  • Almost three quarters (74.6%) have noticed an increase in gambling advertising recently
  • Three out of four (73.6%) know at least one person with a gambling problem, while an additional 11% think they may know someone with a problem
  • 80% are in favour of an outright ban of gambling ads on tv, radio, print and online


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