HSE treating record number of gambling addictions
New figures made public by the HSE reveal that the Irish healthcare system is treating record-high levels of gambling addiction.
While the official numbers for 2018 are being finalised, the provisional figures indicate that there were 257 cases assessed and treated for gambling as a main problem in 2018.
These figures do not offer a complete picture of problem gambling in Ireland, as reporting such treatment to the National Drug Treatment Reporting System is optional. The HSE says the data "cannot be considered complete or representative of treatment for gambling in a national context."
Still, the figure is a significant increase on 2011, when there were 181 cases. 219 cases were registered on the system in 2017. It is possible that some of these entries could refer to cases "where a person receives treatment at more than one centre or at the same centre more than once per year."
Only 33% of the data is available so far in 2019, but the HSE has treated 82 cases of gambling addiction in that time.
The figures were released following a question asked in the Dáil by Sinn Féin Louise O'Reilly TD. Speaking upon the release of the data, O'Reilly said: "Problem gambling is too serious for our health service to not have a comprehensive understanding of the issue, and the gambling industry cannot continue to be essentially unregulated. The issue is too serious for the government to abdicate responsibility and leave it to others.
"We have to be totally proactive here as regards regulation and health service provision – while problem gambling is not necessarily a new problem, it is more complex and far more widespread than ever before, and we need to ensure the health service, society, and politicians are responding proactively and accordingly."