Head of addiction services at St. John of God hospital Colin O’Gara has spent quite some time looking at gambling issues in Ireland.
Brother of Irish rugby legend Ronan O’Gara, Colin comes from a family of sport obsessives. However, Professor O’Gara knows that gambling can become an obsession unlike any other for many people across Ireland.
He feels that upcoming regulation efforts can help stem a worrying tide that has creeped into Irish society.
He said: “We believe that we will have an office for gambling control and a regulator in place by the autumn. If that comes in myself and a lot of other people will be happy and satisfied that something is being done about this.”
A lecturer at UCD, O’Gara has stressed the importance of quelling the number of advertisements that television viewers forced to sit through during a sports event.
“The problem in Ireland at the moment is that there are these sophisticated highly polished advertisements are fronted by very high-profile sports people.
“That’s not ideal and is something that needs to be looked at by the office,” said O’Gara.
The Cork man thinks a levy on bookmaker’s is critical in helping to fund addiction services throughout the country.
“Another thing that the office will have to look at is taking a levy from bookmaker’s profits. The figure of 1% of turnover has been thrown around and if that were to be the case, we would be in a position to set up a national network of addiction services for people effected by the problem.”
There have been calls from victims of gambling addiction for immediate regulation as well as sufficient concentration on the issue by legislators. O’Gara is unsure as to why these calls have yet to be answered.
“We don’t know why it has been such a slow process to regulate this industry. The political currency in addressing the gambling issue probably isn’t the most attractive thing for politicians.
“It hasn’t been a priority for a long time and doesn’t take precedence. Also, nobody was talking about it for quite a long time so there are a number of reasons for its lack of regulation.”
A leading psychiatrist on addiction, O’Gara is of the opinion that the starting point in addressing the problem is funding.
“Through funding of research, we can close the circle on many different issues.
“We’ll be able to do research, we’ll be able to find out what the figures are, and we’ll be able to direct our attention to the right places.”
While there is currently not enough substantial data around gambling addiction in Ireland, O’Gara used English findings to break down where we presently stand in Ireland.
“At the moment we’re really just trying to extrapolate from the English figures. They would suggest that 1% suffer from very severe pathological gambling which would be total annihilation of the individual up to about 5% of the overall general population being at risk so they are affected to a lesser degree.
“If you convert that into Irish figures, you’re looking at about 50,000 people for the 1% and 300,00 people for the 5%.”
Check Out the full interview with Dr. O’Gara on Scoreline Extra below: