The drive to gambling on sports is almost as strong as the drive to participate in them.
We have been betting on the outcome of sporting events since ancient times. In ancient Rome, the wealthy wagered on chariot races, animal fights and gladiator battles. The Romans spread their penchant for gambling across the breadth of their empire.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, Europeans enjoyed betting on cockfights, wrestling and athletics. In the 18th century, horse racing and boxing rose to gambling prominence, while the 19th and 20th centuries brought a new emphasis on team sports and Europeans began risking their wages on rugby, soccer, and cricket games.
Today, soccer is the most bet upon sport worldwide and American football attracts the most gambling in the USA – where the Supreme Court overturned a federal ban on sports betting and allowed states to legalise it, as recently as May 2018.
In Ireland, gambling has always been a popular pastime but in recent years, we’ve seen an increase in gambling activity due to advances in technology. Today, we have instant 24/7 access to sports betting and online casinos.
The most popular betting market in Ireland has traditionally been horseracing with both regular and infrequent punters looking to back a horse. In recent years, GAA has become more popular, with the betting opportunities that it offers Irish gamblers, including spread betting, adding a whole new dimension to the Irish gambling industry. Gambling on soccer – both at home and in the UK – is massively popular with accumulator bets common.
The sports gambling landscape has changed hugely in recent years. Tennis has become the second-most gambled upon sport in the world and golf is gathering momentum also.
Why? Because there is far more coverage of sport – and a wide variety of sports – on TV now. Viewers are more likely to watch and engage with a sport if they have a financial investment, so gambling advertising is everywhere. Just look at the pay-per-view sporting events!
TV companies know that gambling on sports increases ratings and will fight any efforts to curtail gambling advertisements.
Huge swathes of sporting events are also sponsored by bookmakers and online betting sites – just look at darts in the UK. Each of the Professional Darts Corporation’s (PDC) nine biggest tournaments are sponsored by betting firms and that influx of money has helped to make darts the UK’s second most popular televised sport, behind only soccer.
So, sport and gambling have gone hand-in-hand for centuries but the problem we face now is the ever-increasing opportunities for gambling – both in-shop and online. Never mind popping to the bookie’s during your lunch or on the way home, a tap of an incentivised app is all you need.
The bookies are happy, the TV companies are happy – but what about the punter? Well they always come out on the losing side – and not just financially.
Gambling addiction is a growing problem with experts estimating that there are over 45,000 severe pathological gamblers in Ireland. Year on year, more and more Irish people need to seek help for a gambling addiction. We regularly hear stories of high-profile sports stars and athletes needing treatment for the same addiction.
Indeed, here at Tabor Group, the number of patients we treated in 2017 for a gambling addiction doubled from the previous year. With all this advertising, slick marketing, sponsorship deal and variety of betting options, clearly sport gambling is a growing problem.
President Michael D Higgins said recently that he is troubled over the issue of gambling in sport – and that gambling platforms should not be allowed access to advertising in sports.
Speaking at Croke Park at the All-Ireland hurling semi-final between Limerick and Cork, Mr Higgins said he was “very concerned about gambling” in sport.
“If I had my way, I wouldn’t have advertising or any access to gambling platforms in sport at all. I really worry when I read the cases,” he told RTÉ Radio.
He referred to the need for more education about the dangers of gambling, but added: “You can’t do everything through education. For too long in Ireland we have often ignored problems that are staring us in the face,” he said.
A long-awaited bill to regulate gambling, the Gambling Control Bill, is still being prepared by the Department of Justice – five years after the then government approved its general scheme.
Under the Government proposals, a gambling regulatory authority is to be established but the bill is not expected to progress in the near future.
Tabor Group is a leading provider of residential addiction treatment services in Ireland. We provide support and care to hundreds of clients suffering from addictions to alcohol, substances, gambling and eating disorders. For more information on Tabor Group’s services click here.