Operation Transformation psychologist Dr Eddie from Portarlington advises on gambling.

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Gambling is a cancer. It destroys lives, there is no doubt about it.

Gambling is a cancer. It destroys lives, there is no doubt about it.

Sean worked in a bar, he read the Racing Post everyday, he thought he had a unique insight into the ‘form’ of horses. This unique insight allowed him to gamble with confidence. His gambling shifted from on course to online. Yet he owes €10,000. He stole regularly from his employer.

He is now unemployed. He spends as much money as he can to make back loses as after all, he believes he will win and make everything OK.

This is the life of a destructive gambler. Not only does it impact on Sean, it impacts on his wife and two children. Life spiralled out of control and depression and suicidality raised its ugly head. Anti-depressants were prescribed but at any opportunity the gambling remained.

Gamblers have a skewed view of the world where they think they’re going to win all the time. If they have had a series of losses they think they’re definitely going to win. This is the classic ‘gambler’s fallacy’.

Sean went to Gamblers Anonymous and slowly his life began to turn around. After 3 years of weekly meetings he found employment again, he is separated from his wife and contributes fully to his children’s lives. Now his life allows for predictability and an ability to look forward to events with happiness. This is in marked comparison to the extreme unhappiness he has experienced before.

Sean’s story is typical as before a person seeks help for their gambling addiction they end up with other major mental health difficulties, most probably clinical depression.

Gambling erodes those it touches. Research has identified that gamblers experience extreme unhappiness. In my experience this unhappiness is not just related to the gambler but to the family as well.

Research by Prof David Forrest University of Liverpool, notes that approximately 9 out of 10 gamblers gamble with no major problems, that about 7 per cent are at risk of developing issues, and that “between 0.5 per cent and 1 per cent of the general population” are serious problem gamblers. Forrest notes “That’s a figure the industry loves,” he says, that “less than 1 per cent are problem gamblers”.

However if you scratch under the surface, academics have found that over one third of the gambling industry revenue comes from full-blown problem gamblers.

You don’t see the gambling industry standing up shouting about this.

With an industry worth about €1.1 billion a year in Ireland this is serious business. Online gambling has become a 24 hour operation and smartphone gambling is the norm.

I do not believe that the gambling industry’s’ ‘responsible gambling’ process and provision of optional spending limits and periods of self-exclusion, for individuals worried about their gambling, goes far enough.

Relying on gamblers to opt-in for self-exclusion is ridiculous. It’s a compulsive behaviour where the gambling fallacy is very much alive. With 30%-35% of your profits coming from this group it’s not in the industries interest to cut this revenue off. Some stronger processes are required.

Often industry looks at the gambler, ignoring the impact on partners, children, extended families. Whats required is the immediate set up of the Office of Gambling Control so that more data on the level of the problem can be accrued and targeted interventions can be promoted. What gets measured gets done.

www. gamblersanonymous.ie The only requirement is the desire to stop gambling.