After releasing its Gambling Disorder Position Paper this week the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland called problem gambling a ‘public health crisis’ and urged the government to issue a blanket ban on the nation’s betting advertising.
The report created by the College’s Faculty of Addiction Psychiatry, points to the national lockdown as a contributing factor in the growth of problem gambling. The professional body of psychiatrists indicated that loneliness times and the modern home working community pressured individuals to fill their time by turning to online betting platforms.
The paper selected five primary channels to counter the ‘hidden epidemic,’ which include public education, new laws, advertising controls, recovery programmes, and problem gambling studies.
Professor Colin O’Gara, the paper’s lead author and a specialist psychiatrist for addictions, compared problem gambling to drug addiction: “We cannot continue to ignore the links between problem gambling and the current high volume of betting ads – be that in traditional TV ads or on team jerseys and side-line banners.
“Much like tobacco, in 10 years I think we will look back on the proliferation of gambling advertising in sport and entertainment and ask ourselves how we let it get so out of control. Currently, gambling advertising in Ireland is much too common and, critically, occurs before the adult television watershed.”
The paper also highlighted the impact on young people of betting advertising, particularly in sport, stressing that children need to be trained and better shielded from problem gambling.
President of the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland Dr William Flannery said: “Even in the absence of live sports, people are finding it difficult to avoid triggers, with increased visibility of online gambling ads and the rollout of new betting platforms.
“We need to support people with tighter controls and responsible gambling measures inbuilt in the industry.”
One of the ways in which this can be done is by banning ads from being broadcast before the watershed on television and radio, and placing in place tighter age verification procedures.
The paper read: “All gambling advertising-related activity should be closely monitored by an independent regulator. The independent regulator should be aware of the influence social media advertising can have on children and adolescents” and “the independent regulator should also be aware of the use of micro-transactions and loot boxes in online gaming, described as ‘virtual games of chance’.”