Irish industry unites to help punters in addressing their problems
Ireland's first Responsible Gambling Week starts on Monday with all sectors of the gambling industry coming together to broadcast the message to punters to keep their betting under control and to advertise where and how they can seek help if they have a problem.
Posters and leaflets at racecourses, greyhound tracks, arcades and online betting sites will proclaim the slogan 'A great tip – know when to stop', but it is the face-to-face interaction between staff and customers in betting shops that will be the keystone of helping people to face up to problems with addiction.
Sharon Byrne, chair of the Irish Bookmakers Association, explains: “This week provides an opportunity, a way for staff to approach customers on the subject of responsible gambling with more confidence. It can be a tough subject to bring up with someone you’ve known a long time.”
“Many of Ireland’s 1,030 betting shops [850 in the Republic, 180 in the North] will be staging coffee mornings this week and these will be open not just to customers but to their friends and family too, in fact anyone who is concerned that someone they know is gambling too heavily or too frequently.
“The coffee mornings will give people who might not know where to turn to or who to talk to an opportunity to sit down and have an informal chat,” Byrne adds. “This presents an easy way to say to people ‘Do you know what’s going on this week; do you know what Dunlewey is? Here’s a leaflet’.”
The charity Dunlewey Addiction Services (dunlewey.net or 1800 936725) has been in operation for more than 30 years and has an important role to play in helping those suffering from gambling problems in Ireland. It is vastly experienced in dealing with all addictions, not just gambling.
“We fund entirely the gambling wing of their addiction centre,” Byrne adds. “However, they are totally independent of us.
“As well as an excellent freephone service they have counsellors based across the country in nearly every county. They give free, face-to-face counselling sessions with experienced, qualified counsellors to anybody who wants them and for as long as they need them.”
Although the bookmaking industry in Ireland is not under the same sort of political pressure as in Britain, where fixed-odds betting terminals have brought bookmakers’ activities under increasing scrutiny, Responsible Gambling Week does provide a platform to show government that the betting industry is willing and able to play a strong role in dealing with problem gambling before any legislation is passed.
'Sharing the same messages'
On Thursday, the betting industry will host a reception in the Dail at which it aims to brief politicians on what it means to gamble responsibly, on how politicians can assist the industry by introducing effective legislation and to show its support for the establishment of an independent regulator and the enactment of the Gambling Control Bill.
“Our members look forward to working productively with the regulator once legislation is passed,” Byrne adds. “Social responsibility has been increasingly fundamental to our members’ approach to customers and business, and what makes this week so important is that the industry is coming together and sharing the same messages to secure maximum exposure and awareness.
“It’s important we recognise there are people who do gamble too much and we want to play our part in creating a service for them. We want to start more conversations about what it means to gamble responsibly between operators, customers and their friends and families.”
To help in that mission there are useful tools available at irishbookmakersasscociation.com, including a budget calculator so punters can work out what proportion of their income they are spending on betting and whether they can afford to do so.
If you are interested in this, you should read: