A new report shows that nearly one-fourth of 16-year olds in Ireland have gambled in the last 12 months. Nearly a quarter said they had difficulty controlling their gambling.
The report “Children and Gambling – Evidence to Inform Regulation and Responses in Ireland” contains data collected from Irish secondary school pupils. The Institute of Public Health and TobaccoFree Research Institute Ireland published the report, which includes 1,949 student responses.
Irish law requires that people be 18 years old to gamble legally.
The main finding of the survey was that 22,9% of 16-year olds had gambled with money in the past 12 months. The rate of gambling was higher for boys, at 28.2% compared to girls’ 17.9%.
The most popular gambling form was sports betting, with 60.7%. Lotteries came in second at 51.8% followed by cards or dice with 41.3%, and slot machines at 36.9%.
Ireland’s problem of underage gambling
10,3% of those who gambled were excessive gamblers, and 5.6% met the criteria for problem gambling. Criteria included lying about the amount of money spent on gambling, and whether they felt they needed to bet even more.
A further 21,3% of respondents had difficulty controlling their gambling. A total of 19.0% said they felt the need for more gambling and 8.1% lied about their gambling spending to people who mattered.
A second key finding is that boys are more likely to suffer gambling-related harm than girls. Eighty percent of those who engaged in excessive gambling were males.
Boys were three times as likely to engage in excessive gambling than girls. Problem gambling is also more prevalent among boys.
IPH urges public health approach in addressing issues
Helen McAvoy is the director of policy at IPH. She said that the report underscores the need for interventions to protect children from harm.
McAvoy stated that the report showed that many 16-year olds in Ireland who gambled got into trouble. This is especially true for sports betting, betting online, and for boys.
The gambling rates in Ireland for this age group are similar to the European average. This highlights the need for public health measures to reduce the harms of gambling.
IPH’s public health development officer Dr Ciara Reynolds added, “We hope that the report findings will inform ongoing gambling reform in Ireland.” The report highlights that further research is needed on children and gambling through national surveys in order to build on the evidence and develop more focused approaches to protect children against gambling-related harm.
Minister is concerned by “deeply troubling findings”
James Browne, Minister of State for Law Reform and Youth Justice, spoke out also about the report. James Browne said that the report was “deeply disturbing” and called for such issues to addressed.
Browne stated that the findings of the report were “deeply troubling” and served to highlight how we as a society must protect vulnerable children and citizens from harms associated with gaming.
“Reforming the gambling legislation and regulations in Ireland has always been a priority of mine as a minister. It is part of our Programme for Government and Justice Plan.
The Gambling Regulation Bill, at its core is a measure of public health. The bill’s main focus is on protecting children from the proliferation of gambling advertisements across various media.
I expect the Gambling Regulation Bill to complete its journey in the Oireachtas by early next year. This is subject to both Houses cooperating.