Online betting is leading to a massive increase in gambling addiction amongst young people in Ireland according to experts.

The Irish Examiner reports an ‘alarming’ increase in the numbers of young people seeking help with their gambling habit.

The experts say that the easy accessibility to internet betting sites is fuelling the problem.

One of the country’s largest treatment centers, Tabor Lodge, has reported a 50% increase in those aged between 18 and 35 seeking help over the last two years.

Tabor Lodge clinical director Mick Devine told the Examiner that the ease with which people could gamble on the internet was a major factor in the overall increase in gambling.

“We used to see gambling addictions among older men, but gambling is now becoming more of a young man’s activity,” he said.

“Gambling on the internet is seductive for young men who are looking for excitement.

“Internet gambling has taken off in a big way. People can be home all day on the computer. It’s easy to conceal. It often doesn’t come out until a disaster hits and a person is in major debt or has been arrested for fraud and theft.”

Devine also told the paper that the age profile of the gambling addict has changed in recent years.

He added: “Now you have two types of problem gamblers. There is the ‘dyed-in-the-wool’ gambler, and then the other who might be young and have problems with alcohol, uppers, and that sort of thing and for them, gambling is more seductive.

“It started out as a Celtic Tiger kind of thing, but it’s getting worse. I assessed a dyed-in-the-wool gambler yesterday.

“He was just 22. Typically, men like him might start in their teens. It’s all about the adrenalin rush to the brain. They get a great buzz but their feet aren’t on the ground. I’ve had people come who said they were bored before getting into it.”

The Toranfield House treatment centre in Wicklow has also seen an increase in online gambling addiction.

Director Stephen Rowan said: “The accessibility offered by online gambling is significant.

“I’d say about 75% of those who gamble online are problem gamblers, while about 20% of those who go to casinos would have a problem. One of the big differences online is frequency - how fast can it happen?

“Most of those with gambling problems suffer from poly addiction. Usually they have issues with drink, cocaine, or sex as well.

“The thing about gambling, and particularly online, is that it can mimic substance abuse in the rush to the brain. I’ve never come across a gambler who didn’t have other addictions.”

Gamblers Anonymous has also reported a surge in demand for its services. The Examiner report states that in Waterford there are now up to five meetings a week, up from just one a week three years ago.

In Limerick, the frequency has gone from one to three weekly. The paper says that even provincial towns such as Mitchelstown and Thurles have responded to demands for a weekly meeting. Meetings are available daily in Dublin and Cork.

The online gambling industry in Ireland is believed to be worth over $2.5billion a year.

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