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Professor calls on Ireland to end ‘normalized’ sports play

Posted: March 14, 2022, 7:08 a.m.

Last update: March 14, 2022, 7:08 a.m.

As Ireland strives to update its gambling laws, it will likely introduce stricter operator controls. A professor who studies addiction thinks it’s a great idea, as the government needs to curb ‘normalized’ sports betting.

Professor Colin O'Gara
Professor Colin O’Gara, Head of Addiction Services at St. John of Gods Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, speaks during a presentation by the hospital. He wants the Irish government to take significant action to crack down on the gambling industry. (Image: Vimeo)

Ireland is close to finalizing the look of its new gaming framework. Further regulatory checks are coming and the government is already looking for someone to spearhead the overhaul.

As a legislative committee continues to review amended laws, it receives input from all quarters. Professor Colin O’Gara, a specialist in addiction treatment, also offered his contribution. He argues that the “proliferation” of sports betting has normalized the activity.

Too many sports bets

O’Gara, who is head of addiction services at St. John of Gods Hospital in Dublin, has been pushing for gambling reform for years. His latest attempt comes from a letter he submitted to the committee overseeing the review of Irish gambling laws, according to Independent.

In his letter, O’Gara claims that between 50,000 and 250,000 people “are affected by problem gambling.” This represents approximately 5% of the population.

For comparison, reports indicate that shopping addiction in Ireland is around 16%. About 39% of the population falls into the category of “excessive alcohol drinkers”.

We must work to reverse this normalization as soon as possible. This work cannot be done without strong government support,” says Professor Colin O’Gara.

O’Gara points out that Ireland has no dedicated inpatient drug wards and only a small handful of outpatient treatment facilities. To counter this, he proposes that the gaming industry devote 1% of its turnover specifically to this end.

More changes needed

Despite evidence that gambling, generally speaking, is not an inherently evil activity, O’Gara and others want to treat it as such. He wants the government to not only ban fixed odds betting terminals, but remove them from the country. He would also welcome massive fines for violators of any regulations, saying small fines will have “no impact”.

Additionally, O’Gara suggests that gambling disorder should be a “national public health crisis.” He wants limits on how much someone can gamble and how much can be deposited into gambling accounts.

The professor also alludes to a greater barrier between sports betting and alcohol. He doesn’t specify how, but says there should be a method to minimize “the harm of gambling wherever alcohol might be present.”

The Irish government continues to review its approach to the first major gambling reform in decades. The results will come in the coming months, and operators should be aware that strict policies are coming.

Search does not support claims

The professor claims that the expansion of sports betting has allowed it to become a normal and accepted activity. He claims that “certain groups of young men” cannot watch a sporting event without betting on it.

However, it is obvious that the vast majority of sports bettors have no problem. Numerous studies have shown that an overwhelming majority of sports bettors participate for the entertainment, not the monetary value.

A study carried out a few years ago by Richard Wood of GamRes Ltd. in Canada and Mark Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University in the UK revealed that “gambling is a form of entertainment for positive gamblers, who dream of winning big”.

The study showed that those who participate more frequently have systems in place to monitor their spending. Additionally, he found that nine out of 10 set a spending limit before they started.