Problem gambling has become a health menace in first world countries. Year after year these nations top the worldwide rank of the countries with major gambling expenses per capita. While the spend might seem low compared to national income averages, it is shocking to know that only 2% of these gamblers are the one who makes the billionaire revenues of the whole industry.
Two fairly close countries face this concern: Ireland and the UK. Both nations have been in love with the fluter even before Romans dare to step on these islands. No matter the changes and swings of time and history, gambling has always been an integral part of their culture, but also a health concern.
Is in this regard that the two nations go in different directions. The UK has been worldly known for the strictness of its gambling regulations. On the other hand, there are reputable casinos not registered in the UK for Brits and Ireland has taken the industry with silkier gloves. But regardless of their approach, they still must confront the same rabbit hole that is problem gambling.
For countries with gambling culture, problem gaming becomes their demise. A leisure that has taken a great toll over families, nations and has been the source of debate between freedom of choice and protection of the vulnerable.
The UK currently holds an estimate of 1,4 million people (including children) suffering from problem gambling, from which 0,7% of the population are considered chronic problem gamblers. Age of participants range between the 25-34 years old with male barely becoming the largest demographic group with 51% The average annual spend per capita is £135,20 (€150)
Ireland, as a much lesser populated nation, has an average of 40,000 of its inhabitants suffering for problem gambling with 0.8% being pathological gamblers. Young men are the largest demographic group with 90% of the cases being males of 35 years old on average. Irish have a per capita gambling spent of €379.51 per annum.
On all, a common point between Brits and Irish is their weakness for betting machines, sports bets, and online gambling. Being the first in the list the most common However, results are very disproportionate in comparison.
Betting machines have become constant over countries with higher problem gambling rates. And the cases of Ireland and the UK aren’t exceptions.
Despite having almost 12,5 times the population of Ireland the number of betting machines is significantly much lower. with 33,000 of them around the country and holding a proportion of 1 machine per 2,019.69 inhabitants.
Ireland with a population of 4,904,000 has 21% more machines than the UK with a proportion of one machine per 122,6 inhabitants, a figure similar to Australia, the country with major gaming losses per capita, and a proportion of 1 betting machine per 118 people. Concern greatly increases when comparing the number of betting machines with the 40,000 problem gamblers in the country having an estimated 1:1 proportion. One machine per problem gambler.
As we initially established the comparison both nations’ regulations go as different as driving through the left or the right.
Gambling in the UK is regulated through an independent body known as the UK Gambling Commission. The Commission’s strict approach has been a model for many countries that even several of them trust in the jurisdiction to supply the gaps in their regulations toward gambling.
Operators looking to get a license must comply with several ethical requirements and its continuous practice as heavier penalties go against those that fail to comply with them. But with all those measures, the UK still poses a concerning number of problem gambling cases.
The emerald isle is the complete opposite of the UK. regulation is enforced through the Minister for Justice and Equality and performs a much laxer approach for licensing, even allowing offshore operators to target the Irish market. regulations are strict regarding customer protection of ist finance, but hold lesser regulation toward promotions of gaming services.
However, the increasing number of cases has made the call for the constitution of an independent body with a similar approach as the UKGC.
Problem Gaming Approach
The UKGC has always been a loose trigger when it comes to fire regulation against irresponsible practices from gambling operators. One measure that shocked operators were limiting stakes in betting machines to a maximum cap of £2. The closure of more than 700 betting shops followed the measure. Other hard blows were the complete ban of television gambling advertisements along with account funding using credit cards and e-wallets; in conjunction with other equally important measures.
At the same time, there has been a change in the perception of problem gambling as a real threat for everyone and not only a condition. for degenerate gamblers. Private and public solutions are available to everyone. Gamestop, a national scheme for self-exclusion, for which the participation of all current and aspiring licensees becomes mandatory; Gambling aware, a program to raise awareness over problem gamblers, has been both the most relevant of them.
Ireland on the other hand is giving its first step towards the imposition of stricter regulations and even wider awareness programs to stop the threat of problem gambling a condition that even among traditional counselors doesn’t raise concerns. Figures worsen regarding the efficiency of problem gambling services with only 1% of the target population being properly attended.
Lobbying is pointed as the reason why several control measures haven’t entered in effect. One example are stakes limits on betting machines. A measure that has been enforced in several countries where problem gambling is related to slots, and similar betting machines, and in Ireland has been considered until now.
Is pretty evident how the UK holds a larger control over the problem gambling issue. But its constant bombarding can have the consequence of overprotecting customers, being counterproductive as the general population won’t create a self-awareness approach when engaging gambling activities and simply holding themselves as victims of a “flawed” system.
Not raising the right amount of awareness and having a laxer regulation doesn’t make much better to the situation. Problem gambling will continue adding emotional and financial cost to Irish families.
For both the UK and Ireland, determining the reach and power of regulations is a task that can only be accomplished following their own moral compass without losing themselves in their pursuit ensuring a safer industry to their people.
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