Ban betting on schools games, says Justin Campbell

Ahead of this weekend’s post-primary All-Ireland finals, addiction counsellor and Rosommon hurling manager Justin Campbell has called for betting on schools matches to be outlawed.

Ban betting on schools games, says Justin Campbell

Campbell, a member of the GAA’s National Health and Wellbeing Committee, has partaken in the compilation of a Croke Park bill to the Department of Justice and Equality seeking a Government ban on betting on all juvenile sporting events.

On Saturday, the post-primary McGirr and O’Sullivan Cup finals will be played, and on Easter Monday, the Buggy Cup (SH B) final will precede the Croke Cup (SH A) decider between St Kieran’s and Ardscoil Rís. The football finals take place a week later.

Campbell says immense scrutiny will be placed on all of those events and feels the time is right to further raise awareness of gambling on underage sporting events.

“This is not just a GAA issue but we must play our part in fighting it,” he says. “I recently logged onto a website and found a betting market for a low profile school final.

“I was shocked, talked to the principals of the two schools involved and they were highly alarmed too. They encouraged the installation of a blocking device on students’ phones but they had no doubt that some players would head down town after school to back themselves in the match.

“Some were 18 and legally allowed to hold an online account but the real worry was that 15-year-old players were handing over money to get bets put on for them.

“There is something morally and ethically wrong with that,” adds Campbell who is also in the frame for the position as Galway U21 hurling manager.

“You must be over 18 to have a betting account and yet you’re allowed to bet on under 18s sport? That’s not right,” he insists. “So, as part of the Health and Wellbeing Committee we have a bill going through the Dáil fighting that. We have also spoken to bookmaking firms as part of that process to express our concerns.

“This unfairly exposes our young players to the pervasive influences of gambling and we are looking for changes to counter that.”

Former Galway senior Campbell last year led the Roscommon hurlers to Nicky Rackard glory.

A professionally trained addiction counsellor, he sees at first hand the gambling crisis out there and says this change would send out the right message.

“This will be a chronic problem if not treated,” he warned.

“It’s like early introduction to alcohol; kids start off taking a drink at 15 and there are no major issues until four of five years down the line.

“The impulsive nature of teenagers is to seek a buzz and a high and an early introduction to gambling will make their situation more chronic in the future.

“People will argue that the stats show only 1% of the Irish population, around 40,000, have a gambling problem. I realise only a certain amount have an issue but I feel the figure is a lot higher all the same.

“The sad reality is that if you are part of a team these days, and didn’t know the odds of a match, you are nearly out of the loop.”

Campbell adds that it is hard to avoid a betting market these days no matter how below the radar your sport falls.

“Odds are being offered for games involving every club, town and village in the land and many people will struggle with that,” he stated.

“Maybe that’s down to our connection with sport in this country. Horses, football, soccer, rugby, and hurling, we love all those sports. And on top of that, many of us showed during the Celtic Tiger that we are risk takers at the best of times.

“It’s part of our culture that we are gamblers by nature. Don’t forget there are various forms of addiction too. From Monday to Friday a lot of people coming to see me feel they manage OK and are functional, but they spend a huge amount of money at weekends.”

Anyone concerned with their own behaviour or that of a loved one can contact the former Galway star at to seek help.

“Taking the the first step is the hardest part,” he says. “But it is essential. Some of the stories out there are chronic and just heartbreaking too.”

Meanwhile, Campbell’s Roscommon hurlers play Monaghan in the NHL Division 3A final in Ballyshannon this Saturday. To build on last year’s success, Campbell has brought five designated players into his squad.

They include the Kilkenny brothers from Kiltormer, Keith and Jason. Keith won two All-Ireland minors and an U21 title with Galway. Ronan O’Meara from Lorrha is also in the setup, as is Ian Delaney from JK Brackens, who works as a detective in Roscommon.

“We have no conveyor belt and that’s the issue,” he says.

“We have seven clubs there and only three clubs fielded U21 teams last year.

“But we beat Armagh in the Nicky Rackard Cup final last year and Armagh are now in the Division 3A league final so it shows what is possible.”

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