Number of people being treated for problem gambling reaches record levels

Figures show 257 cases recorded last year – the highest number since records began in 2010

The number of people being treated in the health service for problem gambling has reached record levels, with more than 250 cases reported by treatment units last year.

Gambling is treated as a problem “substance”, along with alcohol and illegal drugs, on the reporting system maintained by the Health Research Board.

This shows almost 1,750 cases where gambling was recorded as the main problem substance since the National Drug Treatment Reporting System started collecting gambling-related data in 2010.

The 257 cases provisionally recorded in 2018 was the highest number logged on the system since then, and looks set to be matched this year. With a third of 2019 data available, 82 gambling cases in treatment have been recorded.


The lowest number of cases was 181 in 2011, the first year gambling data was recorded.


Since reporting treatment for gambling is optional, the Health Service Executive warns the data cannot be considered complete or representative of the problem in a national context. There are an estimated 30,000 problem gamblers in the State.

The HSE provided the figures to Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly, who called for urgent action from politicians and the health service.

“We are not drifting towards a gambling crisis, we are in the middle of one,” she said. “We have the highest online gambling losses, per capita, in the world; that fact should scare politicians, but the reality is that it doesn’t.”

“All the available evidence points to the fact that it is predominantly young men who are suffering from problem gambling and our health services have to be able to educate about this problem and reach out and respond to these young men in a targeted way.

“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 now 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.”

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times