The Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 used to be the main point of reference for any gambling related activity within Ireland. However, this changed in 2015, when the Betting (Amendment) Act was passed, thereby legalizing all forms of online betting in the country. Otherwise, most of the original laws remained. Foreign operators are legally allowed to do business in the country and target Irish citizens.

Earlier in May of this year, the Irish Justice Minister proposed a set of new laws in Cabinet in order to implement new measures to crack down hard and combat problem gambling. The plan is to create an independent watchdog, with hefty fines to be imposed on those regulators that fail to comply.

A report by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol (Nacda) revealed that in 2015, 64% of the adult population gambled in some form or other. However, the report did not specify what type of gambling and included everything from buying lottery tickets to playing online slots and also failed to include how often it occurred.

Gambling remains one of the biggest industries in Ireland, employing some 7000 people. While it’s always been popular, recent years have witnessed a spike in this pastime thanks to developments in technology that have led to an increase in online casinos. Online gambling in particular shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon, with one study predicting that the industry could be worth around €7.5 billion by 2020.

Ireland’s most popular betting market remains horse racing, mostly due to its largely rural setting. However, Gaelic football has also increased in popularity over the past couple of years, probably due to the variety of opportunities it offers to gamblers. Greyhound racing, hurling and traditional football also remain strong favorites. When it comes to games, the best Irish online casinos have reported that slots and table games are the preferred options for players.

 Gambling addiction in Ireland

The manager of Limerick’s Saoirse Addiction Treatment Centre, Alan Galvin, believes that gambling is “one of the most serious epidemics” the country is facing, and it only seems to be getting worse.

Galvin expressed particular concern about the dangers of online gambling and the ways in which its targeting youngsters as well as the lack of control surrounding it, which he believes is a ‘massive issue’.

“One lad showed me, he was watching a game on his laptop, logged into the portal or whatever, and during it he was getting targeted for quick bets, say on who scores the next point. It’s instant and through the whole process they can constantly gamble,” he said.

He also said that young males are especially susceptible to gambling addiction with many throwing away their unemployment benefits and ending up even more dependent on state welfare as well as developing substance abuse problems too which often goes hand in hand with gambling. He also pointed out that many people only attend the Galway Races for the booze and the bookies.

The treatment center which Galvin manages provides free day treatment for those over the age of 18.

“Gambling is different – it’s not a health issue, it’s seen as a social issue…. There’s also a great lobby there, it’s big money.”

Revenue has started cracking down on unlicensed land-based operators, collecting over €1 million in taxes as a penalty just last year. However, Galvin claims that still not enough is being done to actually regulate and oversee the gambling itself.

Speaking of an increase in casinos during the recession period, he said: “They’re open all night, they’re dimly lit, you can find a corner and you’ll be left alone ’til you’re penniless. Some of them even have ATM machines.”

Gambling addicts in Ireland are currently offered the same services as those with substance abuse problems, including assessments, counseling and rehab as well as being directed to organizations like Gamblers Anonymous.