SBC News Ireland warned of underestimating real problem gambling rates 

Ireland warned of underestimating real problem gambling rates 

The government of Ireland has been warned “that there is far more problem gambling in the Republic than previously believed.” 

The assessment comes from independent public policy research agency the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) which published its “Measures of Problem Gambling in Ireland” report.

The ESRI study was commissioned by the Implementation Team supporting the establishment of the new Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland.

Applying a new ‘anonymous online survey’, the ESRI outlines its best assumption that 1-in-30 Irish adults has a problem with gambling. The figure is 10X higher than the 2019 estimate guiding the Irish government’s current agenda on gambling harms.

The ESRI survey was conducted in August 2023 with a user sample of 2,850 adults aged 18 and over, in which researchers underlined that they had carried out ‘multiple validity checks’ in comparison to previous studies measuring harms.

As such, the “validity of the 1-in-30 figure is supported by its alignment with observed rates of problem gambling among friends and family and consistency with national gambling revenue figures.”

The headline finding estimates that 3.3% of Ireland’s adult population is experiencing problem gambling – circa 130,000 people.  Further ESRI insights detailed that “7.1% of the population showed moderate evidence of PG, and 15% reported at least one negative gambling experience.” 

Spending data suggests that gambling expenditure in Ireland is around €5.5 billion, aligning with the government’s industry revenue figures as the survey indexed that 74% of participants engaged in gambling over the past month, with 35% gambling online.

Mirroring trends across European nations, problem gambling remains more prevalent amongst men under the age of 50, with a lower educational attainment.

Of concern to policy stakeholders, the ESRI underlined that customers with problem gambling on average spent over €1,000 per month on gambling – “This means that more than a quarter of all money spent on gambling in Ireland is spent by people with problem gambling, rising to almost a half when those who show moderate evidence of problem gambling are included.”

At the close of 2022, Irish parties settled on the terms of the “Gambling Regulation Bill” which will implement a new regulatory framework for gambling in the Republic regulating online gambling and applying new laws for land-based operators.  

A key directive will see Ireland launch the new Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland led by Anne Marie Caulfield as Ireland’s first gambling directorate.

Caulfield welcomed ESRI insights, citing: “The true extent of problem gambling in Ireland is hidden from public view and the importance of this ESRI study in shining a light on the extent of gambling harm in Ireland cannot be underestimated.

“Problem gambling impacts not just on the individual involved but on their family and friends. The insights from this and other studies into gambling in Ireland will be invaluable to the Authority as we undertake our work in education, awareness and in introducing other measures, such as the exclusion register, to protect against gambling harm.”

Though scheduled to come into force by the end of 2023, as it stands the Gambling Regulation Bill is yet to have received its final approval by Dáil (Irish Assembly) and the members of the Seanad – Ireland’s upper house of senators.

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