For some years now, analysts have been claiming that problem gambling and alcohol addiction are two of the greatest social ills in Ireland, both of them capable of seriously hurting the lives not only of the person addicted to them but also the ones of their family and friends.
And while alcohol addiction may take years until it takes over a person’s life and ruins it, problem gambling could evolve more quickly and could take the gambler’s home, job or relationship in a matter of minutes. With the ongoing lockdown that was imposed because of the coronavirus outbreak, betting shops across the nation were forced to temporarily cease operations but, at the same time, a massive increase in online gambling was registered.
With live sports postponed and cancelled not only in Ireland but also on a global scale, online casinos, slots and poker have been experiencing a surge in popularity. And this, according to analysts, has increased the need for urgent changes in the Irish gambling legislation to make sure local customers are well-protected against gambling harm.
For the time being, the gambling industry in Ireland is being regulated under outdated laws that need to be altered in a way that would make them more suitable for the current gambling sector and the rapid development of the environment in the industry. The nearest attempt that the country got to more appropriate regulation was the Gambling Control Bill, which Aland Shatter introduced in 2013. In that bill, player protection was set as a paramount priority, but the bill is still on hold as it has not yet made its way through the Oireachtas.
The Ongoing Pandemic Shutdown Proves that Gambling Sector in Ireland Needs to Be Better Controlled
In the current situation with the coronavirus pandemic shutdown, it is even more important for Ireland to have its gambling sector well controlled, with a special regulatory body to oversee the industry.
As Casino Guardian has recently reported, Problem Gambling Ireland, a charity organisation that works with gambling addicts, has turned to the largest Irish gambling companies calling for them to implement certain limits to their online operations. The charity has highlighted the need to limit the online gambling deposits and spending limits in the country because of the Covid-19 situation and explained that the ongoing lockdown in Ireland has resulted in the rising popularity of online gambling among local players. According to the organisation, this could become a serious issue.
Certain deposit limits have already been imposed on the online program of the National Lottery, but according to the charity organisation, further restrictions are necessary. The fact that live sports events have been cancelled or postponed has pushed vulnerable individuals to virtual sports, online casino, slots and poker services.
The bosses of Paddy Power Betfair, Ladbrokes, BoyleSports and a few other operators were already addressed by Problem Gambling Ireland, but the charity organisations sharing their concern that the increasing interest in online gambling provided the fact that brick-and-mortar gambling venues are shut.
Online Gambling Is More Dangerous During the Coronavirus Pandemic, Irish Charity Says
In April, the five largest gambling companies in the UK were reached by Nigel Huddleston, the country’s sports minister. In a letter to the operators, Mr Huddleston once again raised the problem gambling issue and asked for the companies to take extra measures in order to guarantee that the most vulnerable society members are well-protected against potential gambling-related harm.
The UK is not the first country seeking to implement additional online gambling restrictions. Last month, online gambling was fully suspended on the territory of Latvia until the coronavirus shutdown is over, while Spain imposed restrictions on gambling advertising on March 31st. Sweden has also taken into consideration the implementation of similar changes after the country’s Social Security Minister Ardalan Shekarabi suggested a set of restrictive measures to be unveiled. These measures included a deposit limit and game session time limits.
According to the boss of Problem Gambling Ireland, online gambling is far more dangerous than some other forms of gambling, because it allows customers to play literally 24/7 regardless of their location. Considering the coronavirus lockdown and social distancing measures, many people are forced to stay at their homes and have more free time, which could make them fill the void by participating in online gambling activities.
As previously reported, Mr Grant highlighted the fact that some online gambling companies already offer various virtual sports events, with some of them being available to bet on every two minutes. According to the charity organisation’s CEO, all those factors combined with the coronavirus lockdown are what makes online gambling more dangerous than usual. He believes that the frequency of the gameplay is one of the key factors that make online gambling so dangerous.