Modern day gambling is a recreational activity which is commonplace in society, however, for some it is a form of escapism or a coping mechanism that can develop into a full blown addiction. This addictive behaviour is commonly known as compulsive or problem gambling. In the modern age of computer technology a large proportion of business is being conducted online, however, bookie offices are still very prominent in our towns and cities.

This advancement in technology over the last decade has made gambling more accessible, with smart phones, tablets and laptops providing 24 hour a day access to gambling websites and betting markets. Modern day gambling has extended beyond the stereotypes of gender, age and socio-economic status and has taken advantage of a multimedia society to become an omnipotent reality amongst the population.

In Ireland, gambling is a big part of our society and is an activity enjoyed by many. The racing industry and bookie offices have long been a normalised part of our culture. Gambling has changed dramatically over the last number of years in line with advances in technology making it easier to place a bet and on a larger amount of betting markets.

Throughout recorded history, people have placed wagers on all manner of unpredictable outcomes. For many, the roll of the dice and the outcome of the race are adrenaline-fuelled elements of their everyday lives. But in some cases, this perpetual thrill-seeking becomes an obsession, the characteristic buzz of anticipation as symptomatic as any other addiction
(Constable, 2003).


In Ireland there is a sizeable cohort of people for whom gambling is developing into a serious problem. The medium through which gambling is practised has evolved alongside advances in technology. A 2017 report in the Economist shows that Ireland has the highest gambling losses per resident adult in the EU and the third highest globally. The figures also show that Ireland has the highest online gambling rates in the world. These statistics not only highlight how popular online gambling has become in Ireland but how it may be a growing problem. The most recent legislation for the governance of the gambling industry in Ireland dates back over 70 years and is not applicable to the modern incarnation of gambling in Irish society.

Unlike other addictions which exhibit more prevalent and obvious signs, gambling addiction usually manifests itself when the person in difficulty is at rock bottom. The problem gambler may be in extreme financial difficultly, distress, have committed fraud and in numerous cases has contemplated suicide. The biological, psychological and social effects of a gambling addiction can be long lasting and detrimental on the individual and their families. Due to the fact that research and regulation are continually ‘playing catch up’, there is a resultant shortfall in treatment practice to address this constantly evolving issue. Irish treatment protocol at present finds itself in the process of adopting a more holistic approach in response to the chameleonic nature of a gambling addiction. In 2013, The American Psychiatric Association (DSM V) addressed the fact that gambling presents similar characteristics to substance addictions and has thus elevated it from an impulse control disorder to be included in the section of substance related and addictive disorders. It follows that when the modified 2013 Gambling Control Bill is eventually enacted, it will provide such a framework to address gambling with regard to a more holistic biopsychosocial approach to addressing gambling addiction in Ireland.

Gambling Control Bill

It is envisioned that the Gambling Control Bill will address the multifaceted nature of problem gambling. This will include the establishment of a gambling regulator to monitor the gambling operator’s ethical responsibility in areas such as advertising, promotions, self-exclusion policies and staff awareness training. It is also planned that Bookmakers will be legally required to pay into a social gambling fund. This will be partly be used for research, and towards the establishment of specific treatment programmes for the benefit of the problem gambler. Funds may also be used for the development of education and gambling awareness programmes.  These protective objectives are guided by moral principles of gambling regulation to ensure:

    • Fairness in the conduct of gambling with regard to
    • The protection of vulnerable persons, including children, from risks to their well-being arising from gambling
    • The avoidance of circumstances where gambling could, inadvertently or otherwise, facilitate or enable criminal or illegal activity
    • Consumer choice and protection
      Gambling Control Bill (General Scheme) 2013.