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Clare ‘gripped by problem gambling crisis’

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Co Clare is in the grip “of a problem gambling crisis” according to Sinn Féin members in the county.

In a statement to The Clare Echo, Sinn Féin county PRO, Peter Flannigan commented that people living in the county particularly young men and teenagers are more susceptible to problem gambling than ever before. “We are in the grip of a problem gambling crisis.”

257 people were treated for problem gambling in the Irish health service last year with 2019 figures expected to be around the same, as of July 82 cases were assessed in this bracket. The National Drug Treatment Reporting System started collecting gambling-related data in 2010 and in the past nine years, there has been 1,750 cases where the main problem substance was recorded as gambling.

During seven years, there has been a 40% increase in individuals presenting themselves with such addiction problems. No breakdown based on age, gender or geography is provided in the figures.

Flannigan outlined that approximately €2.2 billion is spent every year on gambling “or €470 per adult. “If you consider those Clare people who wouldn’t ever lay a bet, that means problem gamblers in the county are losing a considerable amount of money each year.”

“Despite what the gambling industry will say, we need stiffer regulation and we need it urgently. We cannot let ‘a bit of craic’ blind us to the real hardships caused by problem gambling. Getting access to gambling in Clare has never been easier. Bookmaker machines are regularly visited by young men but it is even simpler to take out a mobile phone to see the next five races,
GAA scores or play virtual casino games. Combined with aggressive marketing, Clare people are more susceptible than ever to developing problem gambling habits, particularly teenage boys and young men.”

He concluded, “We are in the eye of a problem gambling storm and hoping the problem will go away by itself is dangerous. Gambling should not to be banned, but it is far past time that we see the industry properly regulated. Clare people need to be able to watch a sporting event without being bombarded with gambling advertisements. We need children to be able to go online without being targeted by gambling ads. While problem gambling is not a new problem, it is more complex now and far more widespread than ever before, and we need to ensure the health service, society, and politicians are responding accordingly. We need proper protections for problem gamblers who wish to stop gambling. We need responsibility from the gambling industry. Above all, we need proper regulation.”

Support is available from Problem Gambling Ireland (089 241 5401), Samaritans (116 123) or Gambler’s Anonymous.

Newmarket-on-Fergus native, Páraic McMahon is a freelance journalist and broadcaster currently working for numerous national and local publications including The Clare Echo, The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent, The Irish Times, RTÉ, TheJournal.ie, The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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