Problem Gambling Casting A Long Shadow

It's that time of year when many will head to Leopardstown or Limerick to enjoy racing's great social side, have a tipple and eradicate the cabin fever of being stuck with no company other than your loved ones for days on end!

Christmas is also a time when many reflect on their place in the world workwise, lifewise and financially.

It can be an incredibly sad time too for anyone mourning those who they have lost over the past year.

Between the dark winter nights and the freezing cold and biting rain, mood levels by December in most cases are nosediving.

You also just never know what that person you meet at a party, bar counter or dinner table is privately dealing with.

Sometimes it can be a poor medical diagnosis but out there in rural Ireland, one thing that I keep hearing about from people I meet is, problem gambling.

I am not taking a high moral stand here.

I put my first bet on when Red Rum was running Grand Nationals.

It's a race I wouldn't miss on the box.

Love Punchestown's Festival meetings.

Love race meetings in Ballybrit.

But I don't have an online betting account.

I can enjoy the day out without worrying about where I am 'up or down' for the day.

There are some reports now that if you do have an online betting account you may have problems getting a mortgage, which is already difficult anyway. 

Thankfully I don't have a gambling problem. (A weakness for apple juice from Clonmel is another matter.)

I can take or leave betting.

A punt on the Grand National is far from a sure thing with the impact of Beechers, likely trouble from stray horses and stamina all variables hard to fathom before you place your bet. 

Sometimes the world out there would make you wonder though.

Have you seen the revelations by 'The Guardian' of London that Ladbrokes in the UK agreed to pay £1m to the victims of a problem gambler who had stolen the money he was using to bet, in return for a pledge not to inform the industry regulator?

At one stage, the gambler was asked for proof of income "to comply with the regulator's policy".

The paper went on to report that "When he didn't receive a response, the account manager wrote: 'Don't worry mate won't need this now.'"

It all makes for very uncomfortable reading.

Especially given the profits of the big players.

Earlier this year, it emerged that Paddy Power Betfair were fined €2.5 million by the UK gambling watchdog for failings including improper anti-money laundering checks and failure to protect people who were showing signs of addiction which included allowing a punter to gamble money stolen from a dogs' home.

Even the notion of betting is hard to escape. 

Online cookies, onair advertising or signage all point to how easy it is to get involved.

Across the Atlantic, the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018 has just come into effect in Washington DC, as America opens its doors to the business of gambling.

Operators will be taxed 10 per cent of gross sports wagering revenues there to fund the Department of Behavioral Health programs dealing with gambling addiction.

Backing a winner can be like an adrenaline rush.

But to me it seems more needs to be done for those hooked on chasing that feeling and wrecking their lives in the process.