Lotteries not associated with ‘excessive gambling’ in Irish public health report

A report from Ireland’s Institute of Public Health (IPH) has made distinctions between lotteries and other forms of gaming with regards to ‘excessive gambling’.

The report is based on data from the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD), a cross-sectional study of 15-16-year-old students carried out every four years in 35 European countries.

Using this analysis, the PIH has estimated that 22.9% of Irish 16-year-olds – meaning ‘one in four to one in five’ of those in this age group – had gambled at some point in the past 12 months.

Across all 16-year-olds, around 2.8% experienced ‘excessive gambling’. With regards to problem gambling, the vast majority of young people who met the criteria were male at 80%.

Around one in 10 of all 16-year-olds who gambled in the previous 12 months met the criteria for excessive gambling, which was largely associated with being male, as well as other factors such as excessive drinking, tobacco and/or e-cigarette use and trouble with the police.

However, the report only associates excessive gambling with online gambling, ‘betting on sports or animals, slot machines and playing with cards or dice, but not with lotteries, bingo or scratch cards.

Lotteries, bingo and scratch cards had the lowest participation rate of all betting products, with 11.9% of 16-year-olds reporting gambling using these verticals in the past 12 months. 51.8% of those who reported gambling in the last 12 months reported the use of lotteries, and six out of 10 were boys.

Betting on sports and animals – meaning horse and dog racing in the case of the latter – was by far the most popular form of gambling among under-16s at 14.5%. Of this number, 60.7% placed at least one bet on sports or animals, and seven out of 10 were male.

A gender breakdown saw boys more likely to gamble than girls, with 28.2% of the former and 17.9% of the latter engaging in betting according to the cross-continental European data.

The report’s publication comes during a time of regulatory change in Ireland, with the Gambling Regulation Bill currently in the fourth stage of the Dail Eireann, the lower stage of the Oireachtas legislature.

James Browne, Ireland’s Minister of State at the Department of Justice, has been the driving force behind the Bill as the government official charged with modernising the nation’s gambling laws, which date back several decades.

“The findings of this report are deeply troubling and serve to highlight why we, as a society, must protect children and vulnerable citizens from the harms associated with gambling.

“Reforming gambling legislation and regulation in Ireland is a key commitment in our Programme for Government and Justice Plan, and has been one of my priorities as Minister.”