Sinn Féin spokesperson on Addiction, Recovery and Wellbeing, Thomas Gould TD, has today called on the government to fast-track drafting a Gambling Control Bill.
His comments come in light of an interview given by Paddy Power founder, Stewart Kenny, on RTÉ’s Prime Time programme in which he announced his resignation from the company in 2016 was because “they refused to do anything meaningful on gambling addiction.”
Teachta Gould said:
“Last night’s comments by Stewart Kenny highlight that the need for gambling regulation is not about being ‘anti-gambling’. It is about the need to protect the most vulnerable in our society.
“The brave comments by Stewart Kenny show that gambling regulation cannot be left to the industry alone.
“Next week marks 8 years since the first publication of a Gambling Control Bill by Fine Gael. 8 years on and we’re still waiting for a Bill to come before the Dáil. This Bill would see the establishment of a Gambling Regulator who could create guidelines for the industry that would see the most vulnerable customers protected.
“In this state currently, most online gambling websites allow a 72 hour window before age verification is required. This means young people can sign up and bet despite rising rates of problem gambling in young males especially.
“We have seen some of the successes of the UK gambling regulator. They have banned gambling advertising at sports events, banned credit cards and more. These are small steps but each one creates an added layer of protection for vulnerable people.
“While Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have sat back lamenting the complexities of gambling legislation, ordinary people have suffered.
“Latest figures from the Gambling Awareness Trust indicate that there are up to 55,000 people with a serious gambling disorder in this state. Yet, just this week it’s been confirmed to me that information on gambling prevalence, collected by the HRB, will be presented to the Department of Justice but not Health next October.
“This is despite Minister Feighan finally confirming late last year that he has a moral, and official, role in addressing gambling addiction.
“While other addictions are now firmly considered a public health issue, it would appear no one is particularly eager to take up the responsibility of addressing problem gambling.
“It’s time to stop hiding from responsibility and start protecting our most vulnerable.”