I propose to take Questions Nos. 636 and 637 together.
The Health Service Executive has responsibility for the provision of addiction treatment services.
People who present to the HSE for addiction treatment for gambling are offered the same range of interventions as those who present with a drug and alcohol addiction, or a mental health concern, including an initial assessment, a comprehensive assessment, and individual counselling. It is often the case that gambling addiction is one of a number of addictions and issues faced by an individual.
Although some cases of problematic gambling have been provided with treatment, services have not been funded to develop a programme of intervention for problematic gambling.
To provide additional services for gambling addiction would result in significant capacity issues and lengthening of existing waiting lists for people with drug and alcohol problems.
The HSE provides funding to a number of voluntary sector providers who treat gambling addiction, along with drug and alcohol addictions. I have asked the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy with details of funded addiction support services that also provide support with gambling addiction.
With respect to the organisation referred by the Deputy, I understand that this organisation provides support for individuals affected by problem gambling. The mission of the organisation is to provide a dedicated, independent suite of supports, resources and referral pathways for problem gamblers and their families. It also advocates on behalf of those suffering the consequences of problem gambling and highlights gambling related issues in the media.
I am aware that problem gambling affects a number of individuals and families in Ireland. Research conducted by Ipsos on behalf of the Department of Justice estimates that circa 1 per cent of the population is affected by problem gambling.
While I am supportive of drug and alcohol services that assist people with problem gambling, the Department has no funding available to it to support organisations that deal only with gambling addiction or problem gamblers.
The Department of Justice has overall responsibility for gambling regulation. It published the Inter-Departmental Working Group Report on Future Licensing and Regulation of Gambling in 2019.
The report addresses the social impact of gambling, including the issue of problem gambling. It notes the social and health impacts of problem gambling and acknowledges that problem gambling can lead to social breakdown, with devastating financial losses and alienation of family and friends. Problem gambling can be associated with a range of harms including higher risk of psychiatric disorders, alcohol and drug misuse, physical and mental health issues, separation and divorce, unemployment and insolvency.
The Inter-Departmental Working Group recommended that:
- funding be made available for research, training, and community interventions into treatment of gambling addiction.
- funding of public education and awareness raising programmes and the production of relevant information materials be supported.
- assistance be given in the provision of additional services to treat gambling addiction.
In order to meet these objectives, the Group recommended that a Social Fund, managed by the gambling regulatory authority should be established.
I support the recommendations of the working group report to address the social impact of gambling and to establish a social fund to support treatment services for gambling addiction.