Irish problem gambling cases hit record high in 2018

23 August 2019

The number of people in Ireland treated for problem gambling has reached a record high of 257 in 2018, according to provisional figures from the Health Service Executive, the body responsible for the provision of health and personal social services.

The total is the highest since records began in 2011, when gambling was first listed as a problem “substance” by the Health Research Board, alongside alcohol and illegal drugs.

The figure represents a 17.4% increase from 2017 and eclipses the previous high of 222, set in 2012. The number of cases treated in 2011 was 181, which remains a record low, while the average number between 2011 and 2017 was 201.

The figures, which are still to be finalised, were revealed by National Planning Specialist Joseph Doyle in response to a parliamentary question from Sinn Fein TD Louise O’Reilly.

However, Doyle stressed that as reporting treatment for gambling to the National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS) is optional, the figures represented only a small portion of problem gambling cases in Ireland and should not be taken as representative of the total number of problem gamblers in the country.

Doyle added that through the first four months of 2019, there were 82 cases assessed and treated in which gambling was main problem, meaning the total cases for the year is on track to end up slightly below 2018’s figures, but ahead of every other year.

In June, the Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill 2019, Ireland’s placeholder legislation for the country’s betting and gaming sector, progressed to the committee stage in Dáil Éireann. The bill will set maximum gaming machine stakes and prizes at €10 and €750 respectively and formally impose age restriction of 18 years on betting and gaming products.

However it will then be replaced by the Gambling Control Bill, which will establish a new legislative framework for the industry, and see the country's first independent regulatory authority created. In May Minister of State David Stanton estimated that it would take up to 18 months for the bill to be fully drafted and passed into law.