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Gambling addiction: ‘It is everywhere you look, and it is big business’

PROBLEM GAMBLING IN IRELAND HAS RISEN DURING COVID, WHILE THE GAMBLING INDUSTRY REMAINS UNREGULATED. ALSO YOUNG AUDIENCES ARE BEING EXPOSED TO ITS HIGHLY SOPHISTICATED PRODUCTS.

“The walls started to close in around me. Between borrowing money, and telling lies, and getting into financial difficulty, the walls were closing in.”

Niall McNamee (36), who was in his mid-teens when he started going to the bookies on Saturdays to place a few bets on horse racing, is talking about when his gambling addiction began to overwhelm him.

“It planted a seed, that maybe I could make a few bob on this,” the Offaly county footballer says. “And that was how it started. It just went from being one day a week, to being two days a week. And eventually after that it was seven days a week; it was 24/7 in terms of the gambling and being on my mind and the worrying.”

The GAA player gambled on horse and dog racing rather than football matches, because of the greater speed involved.

“For me to sit through a soccer match for 90 minutes to see the result at the end of it would be pure torture. I needed the bet to happen quickly and the result to come in quickly.”

NIALL MCNAMEE IN ACTION FOR OFFALY: ‘I WENT INTO THE RUTLAND CENTRE IN DUBLIN FOR THE RESIDENTIAL PROGRAMME FOR ABOUT FIVE WEEKS, AND FROM THAT DAY I’VE NEVER REALLY LOOKED BACK.’

PROBLEM GAMBLING IN IRELAND HAS RISEN DURING COVID, WHILE THE GAMBLING INDUSTRY REMAINS UNREGULATED.

McNamee started telling more and more lies because of the money he was losing, and the time he was spending in the bookies.

“If you keep doing it [lying], week in, week out, then whatever bit of goodness is in you, it kind of starts to chip away at it, and it’s just not a nice place to be. Your relationship with yourself becomes a very, very difficult one.”

By 2016 the stress from his secret addiction was making him feel as if the “walls were closing in”.

“Basically I had a conversation with my father and said, ‘look, I’m really struggling with gambling here. I need to get a bit of help’. A couple of days later I saw an addiction counsellor. About a week and a half later I went into the Rutland Centre in Dublin for the residential programme. From that day I’ve never really looked back.”