New Lotto app criticised by addiction expert

National Lottery service is ‘normalising gambling’ and hurting addicts, doctor claims

The online Lotto app from the National Lottery is normalising gambling, a leading addiction expert has warned.

The online Lotto app from the National Lottery is normalising gambling, a leading addiction expert has warned.

 

The online Lotto app from the National Lottery is normalising gambling, a leading addiction expert has warned.

Dr Colin O’Gara, head of addiction services at St John of God Hospital in Dublin, also said people being treated for gambling problems reported that “the accessibility of apps makes their problem a whole lot worse” .

The National Lottery mobile app, which was launched in June, allows players to play the Lotto, EuroMillions, Daily Million and Instant Win games.

It has been accompanied by a TV, radio and online advertising campaign.

“The evidence with regards to whether these adverts and app lead to harm is not there. However, the international literature would suggest that it affects children and problem gamblers disproportionately compared to controls,” Dr O’Gara said.

“Whether it affects the general public or increases their risk of gambling has not been proven conclusively. Any portal that increases the accessibility to gambling is a problem.

“I would argue the combination of the National Lottery advertising and the mobile app increases the normalisation of gambling in society.

Adolescence

“There is a disproportionate number of problem gamblers where the genesis of their gambling problem began in adolescence compared to recreational gamblers.”

Dr O’Gara said the widespread advertising of the app was likely to increase the “normalisation of gambling” .

“In Ireland we have a total deregulation on gambling and lotto ads, and during Euro 2016 it was non-stop,” he said.

“Ten years ago in Ireland the vast majority of presentations for problem gamblers was practically all land based.

“That has swung the other way now, and the vast majority of presentations are online gambling.

“Ultimately this is a gambling product, and gambling as a behaviour is addictive . . . it sits alongside alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse.”

Schools

“How do you stop 12- or 13-year-olds downloading the apps? I go into schools to talk about gambling and on occasion half the class [of 14-15-year-olds] would have online gambling accounts.”

Dr O’Gara said the advertisements do not reference the players’ odds of winning and depict players winning large amounts regularly.

“There is a suggestions that big wins are frequent. I don’t think it is representative of the odds.

The National Lottery said in a statement it differed from other forms of gaming as it was based on many people playing, while spending a reasonably small amount to enter the games.

“Under the conditions of our licence we are committed to contributing two-thirds of gross gaming revenue [sales minus prizes] to good causes.

“Game developments, such as the National Lottery online and app services, are designed to make the games more convenient and entertaining for players, which will in turn raise increased funds for good causes across Ireland.”

It said it was committed to operating in a socially responsible way, and was conscious of its responsibilities in relation to player protection, “which we consider paramount”.

All game rules specify that players must be over 18 years of age.