Gambling industry needs to recognise harm caused by ads

21 September 2021
  • Labour Bill would ban all advertising of gambling in Ireland
  • Experts report increase in gambling disorder referrals since Covid lockdown

Highlighting comments made by a former Paddy Power executive on RTÉ, Labour spokesperson on sport Mark Wall has reiterated his call to Government to prioritise Labour Party legislation that 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:

“Often hidden in society, problem gambling is impacting so many families throughout the country. Since I introduced this legislation in April, our offices have been inundated with families getting in touch, telling their stories and supporting our call to ban gambling ads. In fact, when we conducted a consultation on the matter in April, 75% of people said they know a problem gambler. Gambling addiction can devastate communities, families, and leave the person suffering from addiction feeling hopeless. The gambling industry is targeting vulnerable people through their ads and they need to be stopped.

“Labour’s Bill would ban all ads across all media platforms including on public transport, billboards and online outlets. Labour’s Bill wants to beat the ads and end the cycle of pain experienced by problem gamblers throughout the country. The Government previously promised that legislation in this space would be published by September but there appears to be no sense of priority, despite the fact that so many lives are influenced by these ads. 

“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 and the industry has used the pandemic to increase its advertising spend in the country. 80% of people responding to our consultation noticed 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.

“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.

“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. 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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