Former Galway hurler Justin Campbell has welcomed the news that leading bookmakers Paddy Power and Boylesports will stop taking bets on underage sports events in this country, writes Jackie Cahill.
Campbell has been outspoken in his criticism of the practice where punters could place bets on underage GAA, soccer and rugby games, as well as schools fixtures.
Campbell, a trained addiction counsellor, has urged other bookmakers to follow suit but conceded that the market is generally unregulated at the present time.
The Kiltormer man said: “It’s absolutely brilliant and hats off to the likes of Paddy Power and Boylesports.
“I’d be calling for the other ones to follow suit as well. It’s very sad that they’re acting in the absence of legislation, going back to 1956.
“I believe that the gambling bill is there since 2006, now nearly ten years and there doesn’t seem to be much progress on it for whatever reason.
“It would be important that legislation is followed up on immediately
“At some level, it creates awareness but it’s not going to solve the problems around addiction.
“It’s very imbalanced around the glamourisation of gambling and from a GAA perspective, yes, it’s protecting our young people from backing themselves and from the danger of corruption, where some day you’re maybe backing the opposition.
“I heard an expert talking recently about where you have sport, you have corruption.
“I would look at it a little bit differently – where you have a betting market, you will have corruption.
“You cannot have corruption unless you have a betting market and while you’re trying to protect the integrity of the game, you need to protect people from the onset of getting into serious problems.”
Campbell deals with people who might start gambling innocently enough on local fixtures but quickly become hooked.
He added: “It would be different if betting was for county teams (only) but there’s betting for every U21 game and the club championships in every county.
“So betting is available in every town and village in Ireland. The difficulty is, the people I’m seeing who are more than likely in a chronic situation because of their addiction started off very simply by thinking that a bet was a bit of fun and walking blindly into addiction.
“There’s very little education and research around the dangers and educational programmes are badly needed. We have very little research and we’re only going on anecdotal evidence. We don’t know patterns, how much people are gambling, what they’re spending it and when they’re getting on the conveyor belt.
“Those questions need to be answered and there’s a huge link between suicide and gambling, with people in a chronic state and not knowing where to turn.
“There is no treatment centre dealing specifically with gambling.
“It’s an emotional disease and while you have your highs, where you win a lot of money and everything is going fine in your life, suddenly you have massive lows. It’s extremities and when you’re in good form and fine, everything is working out but when you lose, there’s a huge emotional disconnection.
“People that I would see are almost disconnected from their emotions, disconnected from life and the people around them. Pardon the pun but it’s like they’re wearing a set of blinkers. When someone’s in chronic addiction, they don’t see anything but the next bet.”