Fianna Fáil TD Jack Chambers says a ruling by the Gambling Commission in the UK, which saw a record fine of £7.8m being imposed on a leading gambling company, further emphasises the need for legislation to ensure that vulnerable gamblers are properly protected.

Deputy Chambers commented, “This week’s ruling from the UK Gambling Commission sends a strong signal to gambling companies and should act as a catalyst for other operators to review their systems for vulnerable players. It should also act as a wake-up call for our Government, which has been stalling on the Gambling Control Bill 2013 for over three years.

“Gambling addiction has become an unspoken scourge on our society – there isn’t a town in this country that has not been affected by this insidious habit, with young men often the victims of spiralling debts as a result of their addiction.

“The existing laws governing gambling are completely out of date and fail to address the advances in technology and popularity of online betting. It is now easier to place a bet on an app than it is to buy a carton of milk in a shop. People no longer have to go to bookies to bet, and the insular nature of online and mobile betting means it’s now easier for gamblers to fall into a dark hole of debt without anybody else knowing or being on hand to help.

“The Government here appears to be burying its head in the sand when it comes to the impact of gambling here. The fact of the matter is that there is not a town in this country that has not been affected by gambling addition, but Fine Gael has failed to progress legislation to deal with it – the Gambling Control Bill 2013 has been sitting on the shelves for over three years and there appears to be no urgency to get it passed through the Oireachtas.

“I have previously outlined the need for a new agency to be established to act as both the licensing authority and regulator for the sector. The UK ruling highlights how effective such a watchdog can be. We need stronger legislation to protect vulnerable gamblers – particularly in the areas of marketing, advertising and age restrictions.

“We can’t continue to shy away from the detrimental impact of gambling – it is fast becoming one of the biggest issues affecting young people – especially young men. The need for proper protections and robust legislation has never been greater”.