Ireland Identifies Problem Gambling In Newly Released Betting Report
According to a newly released report, called the Gambling Prevalence Survey, from the Northern Ireland Department for Communities (NIDC), a substantial portion of the county’s population has a tendency toward problem gambling, and many citizens participate in gambling activities at a higher rate than the UK, Scotland, and Wales.
With Northern Ireland gamblers at the highest risk of problem gambling when compared to any other UK nation, lawmakers are reconsidering the current efforts in place to curb such activities. As many as two thirds of those polled by the NIDC submitted that they had gambled at least once within the last year. Many of those polled did not meet criteria to be called problem gamblers, but close to 7% were labeled as moderate risk to high risk gamblers under the current definition. Just under 2.5% of those polled fell into the category of “problem gambling”. According to a report released from the H2 Gambling Capital consultancy, Ireland’s gamblers are the third largest losers on the planet, preceded only by the world’s second, Singapore, and first, Australia.
A majority of those participating in the survey held less than favorable views towards gambling, with only about 33% of participants holding a favorable view when it came to the practice. The results showed an increase over a similar study conducted in 2010. According to the report, the most common forms of gambling among participants included playing lotteries, scratch cards, and wagering on sports or other events.
MEP Lynn Boylan spoke in a public address earlier this year about her thought on gambling in Ireland sans a regulatory body, stating that, “The damage that problem gambling is having on Irish society goes largely unreported.” She went on to illuminate the fact that while efforts to combat addictive behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse took more direct approaches, “the issue of problem gambling has been relatively ignored by politicians.” She alluded to the acceptance of gambling in popular culture and its mitigation as a concern resulting from the fact that, “politicians and certain sections of the media seem to think that it is not a pressing matter.” In her closing remarks, Boylan said she viewed problem gambling as “one of the gravest issues facing Irish society.”
Legislation to tighten up on regulation has been stuck in limbo since 2013. It was at that time the Gambling Control Act was introduced by then MP Alan Shatter. However, the legislation that hoped to address shortcomings of the 1931 Betting Act has since failed to gain traction in the four years following its inception. TD Niall Collins called for officials to “dust down the bill that was introduced and get it back on the legislative agenda,” in an address last week, adding that only after a regulatory body is established, can the current state of affairs regarding the industry and associated technologies be addressed.
Lack Of Regulation
Ireland is a population particularly vulnerable to gambling problems and associated illicit activities because the nation has no explicit regulatory body charged with overseeing the industry. As a result, criminals are notorious for using the loose gaming law enforcement of Ireland to launder money through local bookmakers.
Along with problem gambling, money laundering is high on the list of government concerns associated with gaming activities. Limerick county TD Niall Collins spoke openly last week about concerns over money laundering and the obvious lack of oversight when it came to gambling. Collins spoke specifically about the criminal element of the industry in his address, stating, “There is a huge issue with money laundering and criminality, with the proceeds of crime being laundered through unregulated bookmakers.”
According to current laws on the books, Irish bookmakers need only to apply and be granted a license from the Revenue Commissioners to provide their services to punters in Ireland. However, no regulatory body exists to keep bookmakers in line and protect punters from shady practices. Reporting of money-laundering or other illegal activity falls on the shoulders of operators in any case, but few step up to speak out about any such transgressions. As a result, organized crime reaps the benefits of an almost Wild-West scenario in the landscape of sports betting in Ireland.
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