We don't enable smoking promoting. Why ought to gambling be any totally different?

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EVERY DAY we experience a huge amount of ads designed to convince us to take certain actions.

The gambling industry has worked particularly hard to create a strong link between major sporting events and betting. When we watch a game we are bombarded with reminders to download gambling apps or put a few bobs on the score.

You may not actively notice it, but 75.4% of sports broadcasts show at least one gambling advertisement. Indeed, gambling ads are the most common in sporting events televised in Ireland and the seventh most common form of ad serving.

A multitude of topics are pushed as potential for flutter – politics are also being targeted by these companies. A betting company currently has chances for the year of the next general election, with that party getting more seats in the next general election and even the likelihood of a United Ireland before 2024.

A nation of players?

While we've been socialized to believe that this behavior is harmless to the betting industry, we haven't.

We must stop associating betting with the pleasure of sports and entertainment and recognize that this behavior is harmful, and we should continue not to allow betting companies to manipulate people in this way.

Gambling addiction is a silent scourge across the country, which is why the Labor Party will be putting legislation out tomorrow to deal with it. We have a national problem with gambling in this country.

In 2019, Ireland had the 7th highest gaming spending in the world – € 9.8 billion (€ 379.51 per capita), according to a report from H2 Gambling Capital. Our legislation will prevent unnecessary promotion of gambling – banning all gambling advertisements in the media, on public transport, on billboards and in online outlets.

This legislation is more important today than ever. In recent years, the ease with which people can play because of our smartphones has changed a lot.

While previously the damage that could be caused by visiting betting shops was limited, now anyone can play any amount of money instantly on their cell phone.

All it takes is a prompt when scrolling Twitter or a reminder at half time. This will obviously add to the problem and, more likely, give a reason why advertising of gambling should be banned.

The Covid Effect

The stress of Covid-19 has challenged the resilience and coping skills of all of us, especially those with addiction problems who are finding it even harder to continue their recovery and avoid relapses.

Studies in Canada show that those suffering from anxiety and depression play more online and are classified as high-risk gamblers during the first six weeks of emergency response.

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As people stay home, lose social contacts and have more time to spend, it is almost inevitable that the problem of gambling will continue to grow, especially given the current availability of online gambling.

The College of Psychiatrists, which in the course of its work is helping people track down the lives shattered by gambling addiction, and there has been isolated evidence of a worrying increase in referrals for gambling addiction since the first lockdown here in Ireland.

They see the consequences of gambling addiction every day and demand an immediate ban on all gambling advertising.

That's what our legislation does. We are informed by medical professionals working on this particular public health issue and we want to break the link between entertainment and the gambling industry. We don't allow advertising to promote smoking – why should gambling be any different?

It should be possible to care about who wins the championship without people almost automatically thinking they should give Kildare a fiver this year. Gambling is harmful and should not be encouraged. Ending the industry's control and manipulation over us is a clear step in addressing this issue.

Senator Mark Wall is the Sports, Defense and Tourism Labor Spokesperson.