The College of Psychiatrists of Ireland has declared problem gambling a ‘public health crisis’ after releasing its Gambling Disorder Position Paper this week, urging the government to issue a blanket ban on betting advertisements in the country.
The paper, developed by the Faculty of Addictions Psychiatry of the College, points towards the national lockdown as a contributing factor in the increase in problem gambling. The professional body of psychiatrists suggested that isolation periods and the new home working culture have forced people to turn to online betting platforms to fill their time.
The document picked out five key channels to target to tackle the ‘hidden epidemic’, which include public education, new legislation, advertising controls, treatment services and research into problem gambling.
Professor Colin O’Gara, leader author of the paper and a Consultant Addictions Psychiatrist, likened problem gambling to substance addiction: “We cannot continue to ignore the links between problem gambling and the current high volume of betting ads – be that in traditional TV ads or on team jerseys and side-line banners.
“Much like tobacco, in 10 years I think we will look back on the proliferation of gambling advertising in sport and entertainment and ask ourselves how we let it get so out of control. Currently, gambling advertising in Ireland is much too common and, critically, occurs before the adult television watershed.”
The paper also highlighted the effect that betting advertisements, particularly within sport, have on young people, emphasising that children need to be educated on and better shielded from problem gambling.
“Even in the absence of live sports, people are finding it difficult to avoid triggers, with increased visibility of online gambling ads and the rollout of new betting platforms,” President of the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland Dr William Flannery, added. “We need to support people with tighter controls and responsible gambling measures inbuilt in the industry.”
One of the ways in which this can be achieved is by barring advertisements from being aired on television and radio before the watershed, and putting stricter age verification processes in place.
The paper read: “All gambling advertising-related activity should be closely monitored by an independent regulator. The independent regulator should be aware of the influence social media advertising can have on children and adolescents” and “the independent regulator should also be aware of the use of micro-transactions and loot boxes in online gaming, described as ‘virtual games of chance’.”