THINK-PIECE: Is Ireland’s Gambling Addiction Ruining Sport?

4 July 2018
By Elaine Murphy

Think Piece

In February this year at the annual GAA Congress, 93% of the 270 delegates voted to ban sponsorship of gambling companies from the sport. This came after many high-profile players admitted that they have a gambling problem. The gambling problem is not confined to Gaelic games exclusively – even Irish football stars are not safe from the vice, with Kyle Lafferty speaking openly about his gambling addiction.

Gambling is one of Ireland’s main societal problems. Authorities may have failed to acknowledge it up to recently, but the GAA’s actions highlighted how it has become a serious problem, and action must be taken. With the rise of mobile bookmakers and the easy access to any online casino, the problem may easily get worse and ruin the next generation of Irish sports stars.

The logo of the GAA

There is, of course, nothing inherently wrong with gambling, and it is a legal form of entertainment, but like so many other things it must be done in moderation, and not undertaken as any form of investment strategy.

Former Galway star Alan Kerins voted on the GAA  ban and welcomed it, although he thinks there’s more work to be done before the problem can be fully addressed. He says that gambling is especially more prevalent in the GAA, with more than 100 players seeking support from the GPA since 2012. Football is no exception – for his gambling offenses, Lafferty was hit with a fine in 2016, which was, fortunately, a turnaround for the former Norwich striker.

Davy Glennon recently talked about his massive gambling addiction as well. The Galway hurler managed to confront his demons and rebuild his life, but not before he got in serious trouble with the law. As Glennon explains, it all started back when he was a child, when he bet his lunch money on football teams at the bookies, losing far more often than winning.

In 2010, Glennon got a job at a wholesale company. He was in denial of his problem at that time, losing loans from banks and credit unions and his own money every day. When he was left without a penny in his pocket, he stole from the firm in order to wager, and that’s what got him in trouble with the law.

This was the last straw for Glennon – he lost his whole life and was put in a rehabilitation centre, where he completed a 12-week program and is now a reformed man. Glennon is hoping to repay his debt to society by speaking about the addiction in public.

Gambling addiction is at an all-time high in Ireland at the moment. The number of gambling addicts is rising by the year, spreading like a virus among the young. More than 5 billion Euros are wagered on an annual basis across the country, which is music for the betting companies ears, but a startling fact for everyone else.

Fortunately, the government has recently introduced the Gambling Control Bill which should provide better protection of minors and vulnerable persons from the dangers of gambling. There are a few more steps to be taken along the way, but the bill is certainly a step in the right direction.

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