The deepening recession has led to a worrying increase in the number of young men seeking treatment for gambling addiction, a Leader investigation has found.
Newly released figures compiled by the Gulladoo Treatment Centre, one of the midlands’ leading treatment centres, accounted for a near 50 per cent increase in client levels across counties Longford, Leitrim and Cavan over the past 15 months.
Martin Quinn, centre director, blamed the sudden hike on rising job losses, spiralling household debt and the ever increasing availability of online sites.
“People who have lost their jobs, the dole is no good to them so they go into the bookies and gamble it all to see if they can make a week’s wages. There is no way out of this, it’s just a vicious cycle,” he said.
A reformed gambler himself, Mr Quinn said the numbers now seeking addiction support couldn’t be more noticeable.
And it is the ease of access to numerous internet sites which has partly accelerated the problem, he added.
“It (numbers contacting the centre) has been rapid. We would have seen a 45 per cent increase over the last while. What we have found is that it (gambling) has gone very secretive. When wives or children have gone to bed, there are more and more cases of husbands getting up and going online to bet. It is just the compulsive nature of a gambler, they live the dream.”
Besides the normally high monetary losses involved, gambling, the Killoe native said, brings with it a whole host of personal and emotional complications.
“It’s not really the amount of money you lose, it’s the effect it has on you. You go into denial and then the lies start so much so that you start believing the lies yourself.”
One of the centre’s most recent clients, who asked for his name not to be published, spoke candidly to this newspaper of how gambling had effectively ruined his life.
“It was like an alarm in my head. Thursday would come and I would say to myself ‘I have to go to the bookies today’. More often than not I would lose my whole wages on the Thursday. I would be in again on Friday trying to win some back and although I might win some back, I would give twice as much back on the Saturday,” he said.
Despite managing to avoid the lure of gambling for the past two months, internet gambling has left many, including some of his closest friends struggling to cope.
“I never took up internet gambling. Several of my friends have and now they are twice as bad as I was. I know of one site where you just key in your bank card and you can transfer money from your account to an online one. In fact they even let you overdraw by €250. That’s how bad it has got.”
Estimated at €44bn globally, the domestic Irish market is believed to be worth around €2bn with Paddy Power, the country’s largest bookmakers boasting close to 1m active customers.