Fianna Fáil TD Jack Chambers has emphasised the need for legislation to ensure that vulnerable gamblers in Ireland are properly protected.

The Deputy raised the matter with the Minister for Health, Simon Harris in Dáil Éireann last week.

Speaking in the Dáil on Thursday Deputy Chambers said, “Gambling addiction has become an unspoken scourge on our society and in fact Ireland has one of the highest global rates of addiction and problem gambling per capita.

“Many vulnerable young people, particularly men have been affected by this surreptitious habit and are often the victims of spiralling debts and impose devastating collateral damage as a result of their addiction.

“Advances in technological innovation and the growing popularity of social media have increased the impulse to gamble and have also widened its accessibility. Internet gambling is thought to be more highly addictive than traditional forms, which have long been popular in Ireland.

“One thing is clear; the need for stringent protections and robust legislation has never been greater. This Government has been stalling on the Gambling Control Bill 2013 despite it being a core element of the Programme for Government.

“Fianna Fáil has recently put forward a Bill which places an emphasis on the principle of harm reduction and prevention. Regulating marketing, advertising and age restrictions are also an essential feature of any legislation.

He added, “A study carried out by Dr. Crystal Fulton (UCD) which examined developments in the gambling sector since 2013 proposed a national gambling strategy, under the remit of the Department of Health, with specific regard to addiction.

“As the findings of the Fulton Report suggest, it is important that we see progress on a national gambling strategy for co-ordinated service provision.

“Gambling is the elephant in the room – A substantial issue that so many are acutely aware of but reluctant to recognise. It is time that emerging trends are addressed and those caught up in problem gambling are better protected,” concluded Deputy Chambers.