Friday, May 24, 2024

Donegal’s spiralling gambling issue laid bare as uphill battle faces counsellors

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There are only two part-time counsellors attempting to address Donegal’s spiralling gambling addiction issue.

Details of the uphill battle facing the relevant agencies were given at a special presentation to members of Donegal’s Joint Policing Committee on Friday.

Gambling Support Counsellor for the Finn Valley area, Gertrude Houton, outlined the reality for those facing a gambling addiction in the county.

Ms Houton revealed how a total of 2,591 therapeutic sessions were given to people suffering from gambling issues across the county last year.

She also outlined that gambling comes in many forms from online betting to bookies to scratch cards and visiting casinos.

The issue across Donegal and the rest of Ireland is growing.

Ms Houton told how that the problem now is estimated to be TEN times larger than it was when last studied in 2019 with 130,000 adults now presenting with a gambling problem.

Ms Houton said one of the real problems was still convincing people to come forward and admit they have an issue with gambling.

She told the meeting at the County House in Lifford: “There is a lot of talk about gambling issues but it is still very hard for people to come forward. People are still embarrassed to admit they have a problem. The gambler might not be ready to come forward.”

With the modern day reality of people not even having to get out of the bed in the morning to place a bet, Ms Huoton said those facing gambling addictions are surrounded by their problem on a daily basis.

She gave one example of a young Donegal man who bet many thousands of euro on Donegal beating Monaghan in a GAA game only to lost the bet.

Ms Houton said: “He did lose the bet that day but he said to us later that he was glad he lost the bet because he would not have been with us discussing his problems and getting help if he had won the bet.”

Ms Houton answered a number of queries from members of the Joint policing Committee surrounding the issue of gambling including advertising, issues around social media and the issue of gambling being hereditary.

Councillor Donal Coyle said that in his opinion the Government was simply not doing enough to face up to the issue.

Councillor Michael McBride said he was thankful for small advances such as a ban on betting on Under 16 and minor GAA games.

Garda Chief Superintendent Goretti Sheridan said that Gardai see the impact of gambling addiction in the community regularly.

However, she indicated that she would like Ms Houton to come and speak with her officers in the future.

Chairperson of the JPC, Councillor Gerry McMonagle said that it was obvious there is a serious problem with gambling in Donegal and it was also obvious that there are not enough resources to cope with it.

“More support is needed. I know the pressure they are under and we must support them in any way we can,” he said.

Donegal’s two gambling support counsellors are based in the Twins Towns and also Pettigo but cater for people with gambling issues from across the entire county.

A Gambling Support Counsellor can be reached by emailing gamblingsupport@dpfss.ie or by telephoning 0749131245.

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