Gambling companies act like drug dealers in their ‘aggressive’ attempts to entice people into the world of online betting, according to a former addict.
He was speaking after a new study found that Irish gamblers lost about €1.36bn last year.
The losses average out to about €300 for every adult in Ireland – making us the fourth-biggest gamblers in the EU.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Noel Brennan, a former gambling addict from Roscommon told reporter Barry Whyte that gambling can completely take over your life.
“I was paid monthly and after a week all my money was gone,” he said. “I had three weeks then of trying to survive and trying to cover and find money to buy a few groceries and then you do a lot of bad things to cover that - a lot of loans and credit cards.
“At the time ten, 12 or 15 years ago, they nearly sent you a new one in the post. Just sign this and you can have €5,000. That’s where I was at.”
Every waking moment
He said gambling took up every waking moment of the day.
“I used to say I had about two seconds of not thinking about gambling in a day,” he said.
“The minute you wake up it is kind of, what day is it or what time is it or whatever your first thoughts are.
“Then it was straight into, what did I do yesterday? What had I lost or what had I won? What lies had I told to cover it all up? What bill might be coming through the letterbox that I couldn’t afford to let my wife at the time see?”
He said that, when things start to spiral out of control, “your whole life is a gamble really.”
“It is too easy,” he said. “Plus, they are seriously aggressive in chasing you. Lads are more into their sport than the girls so what are we getting the girls doing?
“It is slot machines and it is bingo … you know they make it look real glamorous.
“I would always say, you know how you get your €20 free spins? That is the very same as Dublin City, 30 years ago in the 80s when there was a huge heroin epidemic where a dealer walks down the street and he hands you a bag and he says, ‘have a shot of that for free and if you like it come back and we’ll get you more.’”
He said Ireland’s gambling is “going to get worse, absolutely” and called on the Government to talk to former addicts and counsellors before legislating.
“They really need to get people that have been in it to really understand how far you have to go to try and stop it,” he said.
Meanwhile, Problem Gambling Ireland CEO Barry Grant said the problem is likely bigger than the figures suggest.
“We know what is lost on sports betting in Ireland because that figure is taxable but there are also things like online casinos, online slots in particular, which are massive and were, I think, even bigger during lockdown because there was a long period there when there were no sports.
“Things like online slots, online roulette, blackjack, poker, I think there would have been a big move towards those.
“So yeah, €1.36bn is a lot. You average it out to every adult in the State it is €300 per head but the reality is that the vast, vast majority of people don’t lose anywhere near that.
“It is a small group of people who would have quite severe problems in many cases who are losing the bulk of that money.”
You can listen back to the full report here: