Home > Dail Eireann debate. Leader’s Questions – [Gambling] [31348/16].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Leader’s Questions – [Gambling] [31348/16]. (27 Oct 2016)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/ga/debates/debate/dail/2...

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: The issue I wish to raise is what is being called "the silent addiction", which is governed by what the Tánaiste called "entirely outdated and not fit-for-purpose regulation and legislation". That silent addiction is gambling, which is divided into gaming, governed by the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956, and betting, which is primarily regulated by the Betting Act 1931. These Acts are outdated and virtually unenforceable, and, in particular, they do not take account of the massive shift in gambling to online and mobile-based forms. The industry has licensed bookmakers and online betting licences but there are private members clubs and casinos, some regulated and some not, gaming arcades, some licensed and some not, and gaming and amusement machines, some licensed and some not, in a wide variety of venues.


However, being licensed is not the same as being regulated and does not mean that any of those organisations or any part of the industry is bound by a code of conduct. With no appropriate statutory powers of enforcement, there is no ensuring that gambling is conducted crime free, the machines and software are operated fairly and the gambling services are provided in a socially responsible manner.


According to surveys in the UK and America, 30% to 35% of the industry's revenue comes from problem gamblers, but there is an information gap in Ireland. We are told that this is an addiction about which Ireland does not know enough. The perception is that gambling is just an odd flutter on the grand national, but we have some 40,000 problem gamblers and there has been a significant increase in adolescent gambling. As with other addictions, there is a human cost. People with a gambling addiction speak of psychiatric difficulties, relationship breakdowns and the loss of incomes, jobs, homes and vast sums of money. There is anecdotal evidence of an increase in the incidence of suicide among those who have a gambling addiction. People with this addiction speak about the uncontrollable urge to gamble and the gambler's fallacy that, no matter how many the losses, there will be a win.


Gambling can be accessed everywhere. It is reckoned that some €5 billion is gambled yearly in Ireland. As to private members' clubs, 1% of the industry is regulated for money laundering, which means that 99% that is not. A few months ago, a €38,000 betting slip was seized during a raid on a prominent criminal gang. The gambling control Bill is long overdue. The general scheme was published in July 2013 and pre-legislative scrutiny was conducted in November 2013, but there has been nothing since. I ask that the Bill be seen as a matter of urgency for the gambling industry and those affected by gambling.


The Tánaiste: I thank the Deputy, who has highlighted an area that is of huge concern in terms of the impact on individuals and families and the addiction that is often central to involvement in it. As the Deputy stated, the Bill's scheme was published some years ago. The Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, has taken responsibility for dealing with this issue and is prioritising it in his work. The scheme that was published suggested that there was a need for further research to support those who were impacted in the way that the Deputy says. There is a public information deficit. The Deputy mentioned adolescents, who are getting addicted at a very early age to gambling, and the huge impact that has on their early adolescent years and, indeed, their adult lives.


There is also a need, as the Deputy says, to regulate the sector and the many new emerging forms of gambling. That will be part of the new legislation as well. I will ask the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, to liaise directly with the Deputy in respect of it. The Deputy also made a point about possible criminal elements that may be involved. Of course, that would be of concern as well. There is also revenue being lost to the State that should not be.

I can only agree with what the Deputy is saying, that this is an important area for legislation and regulation and also needs the development of greater awareness and more services to be made available to those more vulnerable people who are being very adversely affected by this addiction……


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