The number of Irish attending Gamblers Anonymous meeting in Ireland has spiraled in the past six months.

"Less than a year ago meetings around Dublin city had just five or six people – seven at most – but now some are catering for up to 30 people," a Gamblers Anonymous spokesperson told the Irish Examiner.

"Gambling is something that is seen as attractive and acceptable – like the horses or the dogs – but no one realizes how many people are in trouble with it."

Irish gamblers were able to feed their habit when the times were good and the money was flowing, but now that the recession has hit the country, gamblers are no longer able to pay for the bets they are placing.

Gambling is a huge business in Ireland. In 2008, Irish gamblers spent €3.6 million ($5.1m)

Several high profile sport stars have been bitten by the gambling bug.

All Ireland winning Armagh Footballer Oisin McConville racked up debts close to $200,000 from gambling before addressing his problem and going into rehab.

Rugby international Ronan O'Gara is also known for his penchant for betting on the horses, and gambling is a huge hobby for professional soccer stars as they have a lot of spare time outside training and playing.

In the States, former NBA star Charles Barkley is famous for heading to Vegas to gamble and says he has lost small fortunes at casinos.

Gamblers Anonymous can be reached in the U.S. by calling 213-386-8769, and in Ireland on (01) 8721133.

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