Ireland: Minister for State Browne labels report spotlighting underage gambling as “deeply troubling”

More than one in five 16-year-olds in Ireland have gambled for money in the last 12 months, reveals a new report published by the Institute of Public Health (IPH) in collaboration with TobaccoFree Research Institute Ireland (TFRI). Irish law mandates that individuals must be a minimum of 18 years old to engage in legal gambling.

The report found that 22.9% of 16-year-olds in Ireland reported gambling for money in the last 12 months and that almost a quarter (23.1%) of those who gambled for money did so online.

Online gambling was associated with both excessive gambling and problem gambling with boys making up the overwhelming majority (80%) of 16-year-olds that met the criteria for problem gambling.

The report used data from the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD), a cross-sectional survey of 15-16-year-old students that has been carried out every four years for over 25 years in more than 35 European countries.

Betting on sports or animals was the most common form of gambling among 16-year-olds, with a significant proportion doing so online.

“The findings of this report are deeply troubling and serve to highlight why we, as a society, must protect children and vulnerable citizens from the harms associated with gambling,” James Browne, Minister for State with responsibility for Law Reform and Youth Justice, said. “Reforming gambling legislation and regulation in Ireland is a key commitment in our Programme for Government and Justice Plan, and has been one of my priorities as Minister.”

In November last year, Ireland approved its new Gambling Regulation Bill which Browne said, at its core, is “a public health measure.” One of the key focuses of the Bill is to protect children from the proliferation of gambling advertising across different forms of media.

“That is why the Bill provides for a watershed prohibiting the broadcast of gambling advertising on television, radio and on audio-visual media services between the hours of 5:30am and 9:00pm,” Browne pointed out.

The report found that one in ten of those who gambled in the last year demonstrated excessive gambling. Furthermore, 8.1% felt the need to lie to people important to them about how much money they gambled, while feeling the need to bet more and more money was experienced by almost one in five (19%).

The report points to the need for further data on children and gambling to be collected and monitored through national health surveys.

Emphasizing the role of the new bill, Browne said: “The legislation also provides for the establishment and operation of the National Gambling Exclusion Register and also introduces a number of additional measures to protect people who participate in gambling. I expect that the Gambling Regulation Bill 2022 will complete its journey through the Oireachtas early next year, subject to the cooperation of both Houses.”