The Labour Party in Ireland has called for a ban on allowing operators in the country to offer free bets. 

These calls come after a survey held online found that most participants knew someone with a gambling addiction. 

The party already drafted legislation earlier this year, including a ban on gambling advertising. 

What did the Labour Party say? 

Commenting on the state of gambling in the country, Senator Mark Wall said that free bets act as an “introduction to gambling” for young people. He also said:

“The stresses of Covid-19 have challenged the resilience and coping strategies of us all, but particularly individuals with addictions who are finding it even harder to continue in their recovery and avoid relapse. 

“With people staying at home, cutting social contacts and having more time on their hands, it is almost inevitable that problem gambling will continue to rise, especially given current online gambling availability. 

“The College of Psychiatrists of Ireland has already indicated a concerning rise in gambling disorder referrals since the lockdowns due to the higher levels of targeted online advertising.” 

Wall also said that there had been a significant number of online gambling ads in the build-up to last week’s Cheltenham Festival. He believed that the focus should have been placed on the event, rather than betting. 

What were the findings of the online survey? 

The survey was conducted by Wall and ran from 17th February to 14th March 2021. 

Of the 1,170 participants, 80% said that they would support a ban on gambling ads. Meanwhile, almost three quarters (73.5%) said that they knew someone suffering from a gambling problem in Ireland. 

7.4% of respondents said that they gambled over 10 times per month on average. 25% claimed to have done so either once a month or more often. 

Horse racing was popular, with 46.8% of participants saying that they most commonly wagered on this sport. 63% said that if they saw a gambling ad, they would feel more likely to put a bet on. 

Wall added:

“Almost three quarters of respondents noticed an increase in gambling ads recently; we need to stop these companies in their tracks before this gets out of control.

“Whereas previously there was some limit to the damage that could be caused as a result of people having to go to betting shops, now any person can gamble any amount of money on their phone.”