Fergal Brady, a psychotherapist with Counselling Connections in Dundalk is worried about our current relationship with gambling.
There is nothing quite like a flutter from time to time, be it a having a few quid on a horse while enjoying a day at the races or just the odd trip to your local betting shop in the hope that striker will finally hit the back of the net and in turn net you a tasty profit.
However, it is quite possible that as a nation we are developing an unhealthy relationship with gambling, with 2019 figures showing that Irish people gave €9.8 billion of their hard-earned incomes to the betting industry and Ireland now the seventh highest spending nation per capita on gambling.
Fergal Brady, a psychotherapist with Counselling Connections in Dundalk was very alarmed by the high numbers being gambled in the country but what was of more concern to him during these times of Lockdown was the ease with which punters can now place their bets.
“I think one of the things about online gambling is that the apps and the availability of services through technology has just made it easier and easier all the time to set up an account on your phone and link it to your card” claimed Brady.
“You hear awful stories of people gambling away their Christmas bonus or gambling away their rent money, housekeeping money or whatever and it causes all sorts of problems. You can sit on your sofa and gamble away which is a major concern.”
Mr Brady believes that like all addictions, online gambling always had the possibility to rise during the pandemic, as people left isolated and lonely try to fill the void by turning to betting apps for some form of entertainment.
“Doing things that we had taken for granted like getting a coffee, going for drinks in the pub or whatever it is. All of those feel like they are shut off and it is like a pressure cooker situation where people at home are then looking for outlets. There is no question that is the case, as it is much easier to gamble than ever before”
While gambling addiction is something often only associated with men, the rise of online platforms has seen a huge jump in women looking for help.
Brady is old enough to remember a different time in the betting industry, when betting shops were a much more intimidating place, stating the ease of wagering online coupled with companies marketing strategies has seen everyone suffer from the addiction.
“When I was a kid the local bookies were a dark place that you couldn’t see into from the outside and it was sort of a scary place to go into and it certainly wouldn’t traditionally be a place where a woman felt comfortable.”
“Now the retail presence of the betting office has improved that image but at home with apps it’s much simpler. Man or woman it doesn’t matter, it is much easier to download the app and get betting and companies are particularly good these days at marketing themselves to all.”
Looking to give advice to all who how may be suffering from addictions during the pandemic, the President of the Irish Psycho-Analytical Association stressed that finding someone you trust was key, but they too needed to come to terms with their addiction.
“It is very difficult to stop an addiction when you are in the grip of it, but the first step is to try admit to yourself that you have a problem. The secrecy in gambling and the shame that is associated with it makes it harder for people to feel like that they can confide in someone.”
“So what we would say is to try find someone that you can trust and say honestly that yes I think I have a problem here. Then seek counselling, as you will always be received in a non-judgemental way.”
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