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A new study from the Institute of Public Health claims to have uncovered worrying trends about the gambling habits of 16-year-olds in Ireland.

The research – titled Children and Gambling: Evidence to inform regulation and responses in Ireland – indicates that nearly 23% of 16-year-olds have gambled for money over the past year, with almost a quarter of those doing so via online platforms.

The study was based on data from the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs (ESPAD), which has tracked the behaviour of 15- and 16-year-old students across 35 European countries for more than 25 years.

The report divulges that betting on sports or animals is the dominant form of gambling among this demographic, while a vast majority (80%) of 16-year-olds that met the criteria for problem gambling were boys.

Children were considered to be experiencing problem gambling if they reported feeling the need to lie to important people about how much money they gambled or if they felt the need to bet more money.

Around 10% of participants exhibited signs of excessive gambling, with 8.1% feeling compelled to lie about their gambling expenditure. Nearly 19% admitted to an increasing compulsion to spend more money on gambling, according to the report.

James Browne, Ireland’s Minister for State with responsibility for Law Reform and Youth Justice, described the results as “deeply troubling”.

He pointed to Ireland’s Gambling Regulation Bill 2022, which is currently under review, as crucial in protecting children and young people from potentially harmful gambling.

One of the notable provisions of the bill is the broadcasting prohibition of gambling ads across TV, radio, and other media services from 5.30am to 9:00pm.

The proposed legislation also prioritises protection for children and the vulnerable by limiting the promotion of gambling activities and establishing a self-exclusion register.

Ireland’s Gambling Regulation Bill 2022 is expected to complete its journey through the Oireachtas early next year.

“It is a priority for the government and my department to reform our gambling legislation, licensing and regulation,” Browne added.

The full report can be read here.