President Higgins highlights need to ban gambling ads – Wall calls for urgency from Govt

Senator Mark Wall
30 June 2021

Welcoming remarks made by President Michael D Higgins highlighting the scourge of gambling advertising, Labour sports spokesperson Mark Wall has called on Government to prioritise his legislation which would ban all gambling ads. Pointing to the increase in referrals for gambling addiction during lockdown, Senator Wall said that we need to divorce the gambling industry from the everyday enjoyment of sports and entertainment.

Senator Wall said:

“I think it is significant that the first major engagement our President choose to speak at was on problem gambling. Often hidden in society, problem gambling is impacting so many families throughout the country. In fact, when I conducted a consultation on the matter in April, 75% of people said they know a problem gambler. As President Higgins rightly said, gambling ads are damaging families and damaging individuals. The Government need to wake up to this live issue and stop with tokenistic responses. The level of addiction and affliction in communities up and down this country demands serious action.

“We need to ban all gambling ads. I introduced a Bill which would ban all ads across all media platforms including on public transport, billboards and online outlets. This legislation is more important now than ever. There have been big changes in recent years in the ease with which people can gamble due to our smartphones. 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 one can gamble any amount of money on their phone in an instant.

“Gambling companies are actively targeting the enjoyment of sport, politics, even Love Island. And unfortunately, this strategy is working.

“The College of Psychiatrists of Ireland indicate that there is a concerning rise in gambling disorders referrals during our Covid lockdowns. While everyone stayed at home to protect themselves from the virus, the industry has used this as an opportunity to sow the seeds of another illness – gambling addiction. 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.

“Gambling is an addiction and it should be treated as such. The Government needs to stop just paying lipservice to this issue. I am proud to have introduced legislation which would end the manipulation carried out by the industry. We have a real opportunity to be global leaders in this space if we just have the ambition to do so. When a ban on smoking indoors was first smoking people never thought it would happen, but now we can go to pubs, restaurants and businesses without risking our lung health. All it took was political will.”

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