James Browne: Irish gambling regulation is a public health measure

Ireland HRB reports social mobility as a growing problem gambling concern

Social mobility has been outlined as underlining factor by the Health Research Board (HRB) of the Republic of Ireland which found those in deprived areas were more likely to suffer from problem gambling.

Publishing its first report on ‘Irish Gambling Trends’, the HRB also found a direct link between those who have high-risk alcohol consumption with higher levels of problem gambling, with 13% of those with high-risk drinking also defined as an at-risk gambler compared with just 2% of low-risk drinkers.

Detailing broad participant responses, HRB noted that 49% of participants aged 15+ admitted to gambling in the past 12 months. However, fewer people in total have gambled in Ireland since the previous survey, with 2.38m gamblers in 2014/15 to 1.9m in 2019/20.

Lottery tickets were cited as the most popular form of gambling amongst Irish gamblers, with over 40% of respondents playing the lottery.

Despite this, lottery tickets also saw the sharpest fall of all gambling verticals since 2014/15, dropping from 57% in 2014/15 to 42% in 2019/20.

Assessing Ireland’s position with regards to problem gambling, the report found that around 90,000 adults are low-risk gamblers, 35,000 are moderate-risk gamblers and 12,000 adults are problem gamblers, with those living in more deprived areas more likely to be high-risk problem gamblers.

Dr Deirdre Mongan, Research Officer at the Health Research Board and lead author of the report, commented: “Men are five times more likely than women to be at-risk gamblers. In terms of the profile of at-risk or problem gamblers, commonly, it is men aged 25–34 who are living in a deprived area, are unemployed and experience substance use problems such as drug use, alcohol use disorder or smoking.”

Comparing Ireland’s findings to that of the UK, gambling figures are lower in the Republic of Ireland with Wales reporting a 50% gambling rate and 67% in Northern Ireland. Additionally, at-risk and problem gambling figures were similar to that of England, Wales and Scotland, but noted as “considerably lower than in Northern Ireland”.

Dr. Mongan analysed the findings, adding: “This new HRB data indicates that most people who gamble, do so safely. It also shows that gambling problems affect the lives of 135,000 people in Ireland, in particular, young men and people experiencing socio-economic deprivation.

“The correlation between problem gambling and harmful alcohol or drug use is of real concern as the presence of substance use disorders can lead to difficulties in treatment. This is reflected in a recent Irish study which found that almost one-half of problem gambling treatment cases have a substance use problem.”

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