The Founder of Paddy Power Finds Gambling to Be a Major Social Issue

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Steward Kenny who is the co-founder of Paddy Power recently came out and said that gambling regulations are ineffective in Ireland because of which the vulnerable and the young are not protected from gambling harm. The former CEO of Paddy Power, Kenny noted that Irish governments have been totally negligent for the past two decades when it comes to regulating gambling.

Simultaneously, Kenny was also critical of the gambling industry. He admitted that he resigned from Paddy Power in 2016 because of the company’s inability to protect consumers from gambling addiction. 

In 1988 Stewart Kenny founded what is now one of the biggest gambling brands in UK but now he regrets doing it. While admitting his love for gambling and opining that gambling can be a great pastime when one does it correctly, Kenny said that smartphone technology and the Internet have made gambling accessible to all, converting a pastime into a major social issue. 

Kenny expressed concern about gambling companies making addictive online casino games available to players below the age of 25. He noted that the frontal lobe of the human brain, which helps people to control their impulses, is developed only in people who are at least 25 years old. But betting companies encourage young bettors to play addictive online casino games. 

Paddy Power released a statement in which it expresses longstanding support for efforts to effectively regulate gambling. The company said that it has made its safe gambling policies better than ever and has also set up a team to work full-time for safe gambling. In addition, the company has invested in predictive models to identify possibilities of consumers suffering from gambling harm, enabling intervention and communication.

The company has also launched initiatives including banning credit cards to fund online gambling and online betting accounts and dedicating 1% of its revenue for education and research on problem gambling and treatment of Irish residents who have suffered gambling harm. 

Paddy Power ended its statement by saying that it has not always got things right with regard to safe gambling but has always remained committed to using innovation and evidence to prevent problem gambling. 

Ireland is currently facing severe issues with problem gambling. Cuan Mhuire, an Irish addiction treatment center that has been treating alcohol and drug addicts for the past 50 years, has recently established a special treatment program for problem gambling. Michael Guerin, who is an addiction counsellor at Cuan Mhuire, says that online gambling has created an environment in which people can easily get addicted. 

The Irish Bookmakers Association has stated that its members have recently made significant attempts to update their safe gambling policies. 

Currently, Ireland has no gambling regulator, but the Department of Justice has stated that a fully operational gambling regulator will be set up by 2023. 

Problem gambling counsellors believe that stringent gambling regulation is the number one solution that will help address gambling addiction in the country. At a Senate debate in April, junior minister James Browne admitted that one cannot deny that Irish gambling laws have created a Wild West situation. 

Meanwhile, the state exchequer received €4.75 billion in gambling taxes in 2019. The Department of Justice says that the Irish gambling market, including the National Lottery and many other forms of gambling, is annually worth €6 – €8 billion. The industry has over 8000 employees. 

According to Kenny, the Irish government is just as addicted to gambling tax revenue as vulnerable residents are to gambling activities. He also warns that setting up a gambling regulator is not a solution to the problem. The need of the hour is to legislate, not hide behind a gambling regulator. 

Kenny says that players below the age of 25 have to be protected from being bombarded with advertisements from online gambling companies. Also, mandatory deposit limits have to be established. 

Just like Paddy Power, Boyle Sports too recently stated that its responsible gambling team is trained to intervene in cases where customers are clearly experiencing difficulties with controlling their gambling activities. The company also supports the setting up of a national register in which customers who self-exclude from one gambling company will not be allowed to register for the services of another company. 

Kenny says that gambling is like cigarettes. In the past, tobacco companies claimed that they encourage consumers not to smoke but the government had to put in place required measures to protect people from cigarettes. Kenny wants the Irish government to do more when it comes to gambling, regulations and player protection measures.