I hate the concept of a so-called nanny state. The less the Government interferes with the private lives of people the better, as far as I am concerned. But there are times when something has to be done for the greater good. In that case it’s time that something was done to curb the massive amount of gambling advertisements on TV. They are on morning, noon and night now.
Never mind horseracing – switch on any live Premier League game and not only is every single ad for a gambling company, a lot of the teams are actually sponsored by betting firms too. But it’s not confined to soccer. Rugby, snooker, darts and even the GAA are affected. Last Sunday during the Monaghan v Dublin game on TG4 there were a number of ads for betting companies.
I’m certainly no prude in that regard – and I enjoy an odd small bet – but for the many people who have a problem with the level of gambling they engage in, to have these ads in your face almost 24/7 must be incredibly difficult. The advent of smartphones means that you can now bet 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
In recent years here in Ireland many young men in particular have become obsessed with gambling. Their social interaction is often dominated by the odds for this, that and the other. I looked up some figures for this article – and they are astounding. In Ireland we gamble just over €5 billion per year, which works out at about €10,000 per minute. It’s estimated that Irish people lose €2.1 billion per year gambling, and by far the biggest form of gambling involved is online. Ireland has the third biggest per capita rate of gambling losses in the entire world (after Australia and Singapore).
Most gambling ads are glitzy and glamorous and portray people having fun and winning loads of money, and for many of those involved it is harmless stuff, but all these ads are going out all day long when young, impressionable people – the vast majority of whom have smartphones – can easily become hooked. There is no ‘watershed’ with regard to these ads, unlike the situation which applies for alcohol.
I have seen at first-hand – people I know personally – the devastation that an addiction to gambling can have, not only on the person themselves, but on their family and friends. There have been severe restrictions on alcohol and tobacco advertising in the past couple of decades and I believe that the gambling industry should be treated the same.
There should be a curb or indeed a ban on betting company ads during live sporting events. Failing that, every ad should have a warning about the dangers involved in betting. The link between betting and sport is also something that has to be looked at.
The figures show that the number of problem gamblers over the age of 16 has risen by one-third over a three-year period. I have a bet myself from time to time and enjoy an evening or two at the Roscommon Races every year, but it would be no harm for the Government to look into the wall to wall advertising on TV that we are currently experiencing from the betting companies.
Just look at the profits achieved for all these betting companies. They are only going one way. But at whose expense?