Leahy, an addiction counsellor with the HSE, was speaking on Tipperary Mid West Radio yesterday in reaction to the station’s set of interviews with gambling addicts involved in GAA within the county, excerpts of which were carried in yesterday’s.
While Leahy has been encouraged by the steps the GAA and GPA have taken to address mental health issues, he told a story of how deep-seated gambling is at inter-county level.
“We definitely need more top people inside in the GAA to help people within the organisation. We are asking people to become these officers in the local clubs and it’s brilliant to see the likes of Timmy (Dalton become an addiction officer) because he knows what way to approach it and he’s been through it himself.
“That’s great but at times they are unskilled people going in there and it’s very hard asking them to deal with issues and problems.
“I was talking to a man who works in this area and not too long ago he was asked to talk to a chap about gambling in a county GAA team.
“He spoke to him and he spoke to the manager. A month later and the manager comes along and rings him with a tip for a horse. It’s that type of behaviour we need to be careful with.”
Leahy joined the growing chorus of voices against the continuing practice of bookmakers making odds available for underage matches, ranging from schools to club to inter-county minor.
“There should be some guidelines where you can’t bet on underage events.
“That is the problem. You look at online and it must be a very difficult thing to police. I’ve heard of people taking their parents’ credit cards, other people’s credit cards, putting in the information.
“The gambling will make you into a liar, the likes of that behaviour, because if you’re a young person under 18, that’s what you have to do to gamble. You turn into this type of person.
“I’ve often said that as well to families: when you’re trying to deal with somebody or get support for somebody, you’re not dealing with that person; you’re dealing with the gambling or alcohol problem or the drugs because they have turned the person into this type of person.”
He believes awareness of compulsive gambling must be widely encouraged in the GAA and other leading sports organisations. People who take their first gamble, they don’t realise where it’s going to bring them to.
“Everyone doesn’t go down the cycle or progression of trouble with their gambling but at least people should be made aware (that) hold on here, this is a dangerous activity to be doing.
“It can cost you your health, it can cost you your family, it can cost you your work. All the things that are important in your life. People need to know that.”