The Argument for Independent Gambling Addiction Supports In Ireland

An excellent article in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper (06.01.16) claims that the Chair of the UK’s Responsible Gambling Trust (RGT) – a charity funded by the gambling industry – lobbied on behalf of that industry.  

Unlike Ireland, the UK has numerous other organisations which are completely independent of any potential influence or conflict of interest from the industry.

Neil Goulden, the Chair of RGT since 2011, also chairs the gambling industry lobbying arm, the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB), since 2012.  He had previously been on the board at Ladbrokes and was chairman of bookmaker and bingo group Gala Coral until 2014.

The Guardian claims that a 2013 gambling industry strategy paper, written by Goulden and Ladbroke’s CEO, Richard Flynn,  identified “a large degree of righteous paternalism” which would see the public mood “swinging away from smoking, heavy drinking, gambling, non-contributors and tax avoiders”.  The paper went on to call for research “which helps to position gambling as an economically valuable and socially responsible leisure pursuit” (like heavy drinking, smoking and tax avoidance, presumably).  It is worth noting that the Irish Department of Justice wrote in their 2010 document, ‘Options for Regulating Gambling‘ – “It can be acknowledged from the start, that for some, the pairing of the words “responsible” and “gambling” is incongruous”.

It could be argued that giving the gambling industry responsibility for encouraging responsible gambling (i.e., reducing the industry’s profits) is more than a tad incongruous too.  This is exactly what we have done in Ireland with the forming of the Irish Responsible Gambling Board’s ‘Gamble Aware’.  While the Gamble Aware website provides some excellent information and support services, the silence from the organisation in terms of raising awareness around gambling addiction (compulsive gambling/problem gambling/pathological  gambling) – and the industry’s part in perpetuating those issues – is truly deafening.  Take Gamble Aware’s Twitter account, for example – set up in November 2011 and (4 tweets later) nothing since February 2012.

Gambling Addiction Ireland

Just like the alcohol industry in Ireland, the gambling industry encourages you to ‘enjoy gambling responsibly’ and directs you to the Gamble Aware website (the alcohol equivalent being Drink Aware).  Alcohol addiction has an independent organisation with ‘teeth’ – Alcohol Action Ireland – ready to take on the vested interests, lobby government and actively raise awareness.  To date, there has been no such organisation dedicated to gambling addiction in Ireland.

My inspiration to set up Problem Gambling Ireland originally came from reading University College Dublin’s research into gambling behaviours (specifically problem gambling) in Ireland , entitled ‘Playing Social Roulette‘ (June 2015).  In my work as an addiction counsellor in private practice, I was aware of the damage caused to individuals and their loved ones by gambling addiction.  However, the report showed the shocking scale of the issue and the dearth of dedicated, independent services.  Subsequent to reading the report, I was fortunate to be involved with the U-Casadh Project winning an Impact Award at the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Awards (2015).  Attending the award ceremony in October, I was surrounded by social entrepreneurs who had followed their passion for positive social change.  This was the final push I needed to make the move from having the idea to taking on the challenge.  Currently I am operating the website, www.problemgambling.ie, on a voluntary basis.  It is a free information resource for anyone who has been negatively affected by gambling.  I am in the process of bringing together a Board of Directors (with no links to the gambling industry) in order to set up as a not-for-profit organisation.  I intend, with the help of the Board, future volunteers and (possibly) staff, to further develop the organisation to  lobby and advocate for improvements to treatment and changes in legislation, raise awareness of problem gambling, develop educational programs, develop treatment programs (and have them evaluated), undertake research, as well as monitoring gambling marketing and advertising.

On a final note, a Goldsmiths University (UK) report in 2014 warned that “the idea of ‘problem gambling’ is politically useful … It focuses attention on individual gamblers, rather than relationships between the industry, the state, products and policies.”  These are the relationships that Problem Gambling Ireland, an independent organisation (with teeth) intends to examine.

Barry Grant
Founder, Problem Gambling Ireland
B.A. Degree Counselling Skills & Addiction Studies
​Member of the Association of Professional Counsellors & Psychotherapists in Ireland
Email: problemgamblingireland [at] gmail.com

100 Day Gambling Recovery Challenge

The Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation (Australia) have launched an online service to help people with problem gambling issues to work towards recovery.  As the name suggests, it is a 100 day program.  The service requires a very simple registration (email required).  Simply click on the link to get started: www.fightforyou.com.au

The main elements of the program are:

  • Check-in: Here users can track how much time and money they have spent gambling this week.  This section also includes a ‘Rate Your Mood’ element (Great, Good, Okay, Not Great, Pretty Bad, Awful).  Data from the check-ins is charted under My Progress and the Mood Indicator, so users can easily visualise how they are getting on over the course of the program.
  • My Diary: The program developers recommend making a diary entry at lest once a week.  This can be done in either written or video format.  Videos must be no bigger than 10mb.
  • Gambling Quiz: A nine-question, multiple choice quiz to help users better understand their gambling behaviour.
  • My Support: The program developers suggest nominating a person (or several people) close to you to support you through the program.  (This is something I would always encourage in my own counselling practice, when treating problem gambling.)  Simply enter the name(s) and email(s) and they will be able to see when you’ve checked in and if your’re feeling low.  They won’t have access to your private page or your diary entries.
  • Inspiration: This section shows the completed journeys of 4 individuals who chose to make their journey through the program public.  This includes diary records and charts of their moods and money spent on gambling of the course of the program.

The program really looks like an excellent tool for anybody considering working on reducing the harm caused by their problem gambling or, indeed, to work towards abstinence.

For more information on gambling addiction recovery supports available in Ireland, check out: www.problemgambling.ie.