Gambling – the secret world of the underage gambler

Anne Marie Whelan

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The online gambler – Photo credit: Kody PLatter (Flickr)

People as young as nine years old are getting involved in gambling and are using technology to secretly feed their gambling habit.  And, underage gambling in Ireland is an issue that has gone unnoticed and unchecked.

However, an article in the Irish Times online, “Gambling Addiction may start as young as nine years old” and a study, Playing Social Roulette – The Impact  of Gambling on Individuals and society,  that was conducted by Dr. Crystal Fulton, UCD, has effectively highlighted and addressed the issues that surround the secret world of Ireland’s underage gambler.  The study found that people under the age of 18, are increasingly using technology: mobile phones, tablets and computers, in a bid to hide their gambling habit.  And, according to Dr. Fulton :

“adolescent gambling is two to three times  greater than for adults, in particular as a consequence of online gambling”.   

Dr. Fulton spoke to the Circular, to give her views on the issue of underage gambling in Ireland:

  1. Does Ireland have an underage gambling problem?

Dr. Fulton: “Ireland does not have a prevalence study, as other areas such as the UK  and Northern Ireland do.  As a result we do not have precise figures around how many people have experienced a gambling problem. Our study of the social impact of gambling  involved talking to  various stakeholders around problem gambling, including recovering gamblers, their families and friends , addictions service providers, and the gambling industry.  Recovering gamblers in this study often described exposure to gambling and gambling in their youth”.

2.  Who is more susceptible to gambling? Young people or adults?

Dr.  Fulton: “The recovering gambling addict’s who participated this study spanned age groups. They spoke of the negative impact problem gambling had had on their lives and the impact on their social relationships.”

3. Can under age gambling  lead to other problems, such as anxiety or depression?

Dr. Fulton: “Why it is difficult to identify a problem before it begins, participants who had been affected by problem gambling, including both recovering gamblers and their social connections, were able to identify signs of a potential gambling problem, such as increased isolation, chasing losses, increased spending on gambling, and a high involvement (especially of young males) in e-gaming. Participants in this study associated particular characteristics with problem gambling, including depression, mood swings, impulsive behaviour, and risk-taking behaviour.”

4. In your study on gambling in Ireland, you found that people can start gambling when they’re teenagers.  Could someone as young as nine years old become addicted to gambling?

Dr. Fulton:  “Participants in the study included recovering gamblers of different ages, from different parts of Ireland, and from different socio economic backgrounds. These recovering gamblers include both men and women.”

  5. What are the effects of under age gangling on the person who was gambling and what are the effects on the family and friends?

Dr. Fulton: “A gambling problem can have extreme, negative consequences for the problem gambling and for that person’s social connections. Participants in the study spoke of financial devastation, as well as social isolation. Both problem gamblers and their families also reported feelings of shame, stigma, and social isolation resulting from a gambling problem.”

Online gambling – Photo credit: affclub (Flickr)

Moreover, the rise of underage gambling was addressed in a RTE documentary, titled –The Growing Issue of Underage Gambling,” which included interviews  with some of Ireland’s underage gamblers. Also, the Clare champion provided more insight into the secret world of the teenage gambler.  They reported on a project that was carried out by a teenage gambling awareness workshop in Ennis, Co. Clare, which was held to highlight the problem of underage gambling in the area.  One teenage girl made a fake account for an online poker website; she just had to tick a box that said she was 18 and that’s all there is to it.   One of the workshop’s main contributors, Shona said:

 “It is common but it’s not talked about like issues with drugs or alcohol are. You can see if someone is drunk or if someone is abusing themselves with drugs. Issues with gambling are just as important because you are losing money and breaking up relationships”.

Clearly, Ireland does an underage gambling problem.  The gambling legislation on underage gambling needs to be revised to address the issues that surround the way underage gamblers can use technology to hide their gambling addiction, before the problem escalates into a problem that can’t be handled.  More awareness needs to be drawn to this issue and Dr Crystal Fulton’s study and more teenage gambling awareness workshops, is definitely a step in the right direction:

For further information on underage gambling, gambling advice, support and tips on responsible gambling,  please go to:

www.citizensinformation.ie/en/birth_family_relationships/children_s_rights_and_policy/children_and_rights_in_ireland.html  and www.responsiblegaming.paddypower.com/family-friends/protecting-minors/?area=rgm_faqs_topnav&button=protectingminors

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Anne Marie Whelan