Numbers seeking help for gambling problems rises during pandemic

Report estimates industry worth up to €8bn in Ireland a year when lotteries taken into account

Online gambling in Ireland has grown during the Covid-19 pandemic as people have had to move away from bricks and mortar betting , a study has concluded.

The findings include that almost two thirds of Irish people over 18 take part in some form of gambling, with up to 55,000 men and women believed to now have a serious gambling disorder.

The website, which helps those with gambling problems, has seen a 180 per cent increase in visits over recent months.

It has called for the “urgent establishment of a robust regulatory regime” for gambling in Ireland and the introduction of “a new industry levy and State funding” to “significantly enhance public treatment provision, education and awareness of gambling related harms, and research into harmful gambling”.


Currently there was no gambling-specific public health programme to treat problem gamblers in Ireland and a lack of ‘gambler-specific’ training for health practitioners, it said. It also found that there was an over-reliance on NGOs and charities to help problem gamblers in Ireland.

The report - Gambling trends, harms and responses: Ireland in an international context - was compiled by of Maynooth University academics Prof Aphra Kerr, Prof John O'Brennan and Dr Lucia Vazquez Mendoza. It was funded by the Gambling Awareness Trust, an independent charity which funds research, education and treatment services to help reduce gambling-related harm.

The report found that the the most popular types of commercial gambling in Ireland include playing the national lottery, buying scratch cards, sports betting (in a betting shop or online), and betting at a horse or greyhound track.

Fastest growing

It says that “traditionally betting was mostly done by men in their 20s and 30s in physical locations. Today men, women and youths under 18 are betting and online betting is the fastest growing type of gambling”.

The “gamblification of sport” had become “a major issue in many countries and has resulted in significant numbers of young males experiencing problem gambling in Ireland and around the world,” it says.

Meanwhile, “the gambling industry in Ireland is growing in revenue terms and the State benefits from this. Revenues accrued from the State betting tax suggest an online and offline betting industry alone in Ireland worth €4.75 billion in 2019”.

"When one adds in the National Lottery and other forms of legal gambling, the value of the Irish gambling market annually is estimated at between €6 to €8 billion," it said.

It also said that, while casinos were illegal in Ireland, since the early 2000s as many as 36 “private member club” casinos had opened around the State.

Prof O’Brennan said the gambling industry and the Irish State have a “duty of care” towards those who experience gambling harms.

“Our report recommends the urgent establishment of a robust regulatory regime, and that a new industry levy and State funding be used to significantly enhance public treatment provision, education and awareness of gambling related harms, and research into harmful gambling,” he said.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times