Just a few months ago, an independent, non-partisan think tank revealed the harrowing extent to which online casinos prey on addicts: “The online gambling industry obtains more than half of its profit from at risk and problem gamblers.”
Now, parents are learning more about how the industry transforms young kids into customers: nearly 95% of the most popular online gambling websites in Ireland – a country where the activity is legal – allow children to place bets without any age verification.
As The Times – which previously busted the “bullying” industry for luring children with cartoons and bombarding them with a record number of ads – reports, “most companies do not require proof of age to open an account”:
“A survey found that 37 of the 39 most popular gambling sites in Ireland did not require any age identification to open an account and place bets…’In other words, a false date of birth can be put in without a problem’…Children use disposable debit cards or online payment sites such as Paypal to top up their accounts, or use their parents’ bank cards surreptitiously.”
- Earlier this year, The Sun reported that “a 13-year-old boy with a gambling addiction managed to blow £80,000 on betting websites after stealing his dad’s credit card.”
- “It was just far too easy. I just had to put in dad’s name, address, date of birth and card details and checked a box saying I was 18 – it took literally seconds to register and start gambling.”
In response to the devastating findings, the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling released not a statement but a question:
“How much higher must the percentage of online casinos that allow children to gamble get – how many more underage victims must online casinos take advantage of – before the long-standing law banning Internet gambling is restored?”
Gambling firms allow children to place bets
By Aaron Rogan
November 10, 2018
Bullying industry must be regulated, says TD
Gambling companies are allowing Irish children to open online accounts without checking their age, the first study of its kind in Ireland has found.
Few consumer protections are in place for punters and most companies do not require proof of age to open an account. Colin O’Gara, a psychiatrist with expertise in addiction who led the study, said the findings, published in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, were of special concern because plans to regulate the gambling sector have stalled.
Professor O’Gara, head of addiction services at Saint John of God Hospital in Dublin, said the results showed that 37 of the 39 most popular gambling sites in Ireland did not require any identification to open an account and place bets. “In other words, a false date of birth can be put in without a problem,” he said. It is illegal to offer gambling products to under-18s.
The study surveyed the websites which were available in Ireland to see what checks were required to open an account and what tools were offered to promote responsible gambling.
European-wide research has found that one in ten Irish boys aged 15 to 16 gamble frequently. Many of these children use disposable debit cards or online payment sites such as Paypal to top up their accounts, or use their parents’ bank cards surreptitiously.
Jack Chambers, a Fianna Fáil TD, said that Professor O’Gara’s findings were “further evidence that strong regulation is urgently required”.
He added “The fact that 37 out of 39 gambling companies surveyed required no age verification shows the industry is incapable of behaving in a sensible way, has zero interest in protecting vulnerable young people from developing gambling addiction problems, and is solely interested in generating as much profit as possible.”
Barry Grant, chief executive of Problem Gambling Ireland, said it was clear that Irish children were able to open online accounts easily. He said that a survey commissioned by his charity of a small sample of secondary schools found that 67 per cent of students had gambled in the past week.
“We brought this up with the department of justice ages ago as there is no justification for a company not stopping an underage person placing a bet in the digital age,” he said.
Mr Grant said if websites do require an ID, it is not requested until after 72 hours and was usually only if the child was attempting to withdraw money.
The study also looked at the responsible gambling tools offered to users by online operators, such as setting limits on how much they can deposit or blocking themselves for a cooling off period. Between the 17 Irish websites and 22 non-Irish sites surveyed, Irish sites generally offered fewer protections. Professor O’Gara said the industry must do more to ensure responsible gambling tools were adequate.