College of Psychiatrists of Ireland calls for gambling advertising ban

Ireland’s professional body for psychiatrists has called for an outright ban on gambling advertising in sports.

Publishing its Gambling Disorder Position Paper the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland (CPI) has called for an outright ban on gambling advertising in sports in 2021.

A proposed ban on gambling advertising in sports

According to the paper, there was overwhelming evidence of a connection between the high volume of betting advertisements and an increase in problem gambling levels.

The CPI said that several measures including an “urgent, outright ban” on gambling advertising and the introduction of dedicated treatment pathways are necessary to tackle what it describes as a “public health crisis.”

In its report, the CPI said that anecdotal information from Consultant Addiction Psychiatrists indicate that there is a concerning rise in gambling disorder referrals amid the coronavirus lockdowns due to isolation, increased opportunities to gamble and higher levels of targeted online gambling advertising online.

Professor Colin O’Gara, the lead author of the paper, said: “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. Betting has become strongly linked with the enjoyment of sports. We are normalising gambling as a behaviour.

“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 CPI’s Gambling Disorder Position Paper

The CPI’s paper was developed by the Faculty of Addictions Psychiatry of the College and outlines the need to tackle gambling addiction in Ireland through several methods including public education, advertising controls, treatment services and legislation.

This comes as Ireland is set to introduce a new gambling watchdog in 2021 which will have the power to regulate advertising, gambling sites and apps.

The CPI said the launch of the paper comes after The European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) published figures on the adolescent gambling habits for 2019. 

According to the figures, when compared to other European countries, 16-year-olds in Ireland have higher rates of gambling.

The ESPAD figures show that 37% of Irish 16-year-olds use slot machines compared to a European average of 21%, while 61% participate in sports betting in Ireland compared to 45% in Europe.

Dr William Flannery, CPI president, said: “The impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic have been felt harshly by those struggling with problem gambling. Key drivers in the development and relapse of an addiction include loneliness, isolation and boredom – all unfortunate side effects of the necessary social distancing restrictions put in place to stop the spread of the virus since last March.

“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.”

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