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Problem Gambling Research

Below are two of the first studies in a series of studies that the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has been commissioned to undertake by the government of Ireland. This review was commissioned through the Department of Justice and the Implementation Team supporting the establishment of Údarás Rialála Cearrbhachais na hÉireann, the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland (GRAI).

Research is a vital element of policy development, and it helps ensure that the measures introduced as a result will be appropriately targeted to protect children and individuals who are vulnerable to the harms associated with excessive gambling. Education, awareness-raising, and research regarding gambling and, in particular, the associated risks will be a key function of the GRAI when it is established.

Poblem Gambling Report 2023.png

Listen to discussions around the ESRI gambling report from RTE Radio 1, DRIVETIME, on the 20th of June 2023 with Dr Shane Timmons, Senior Research Officer, ESRI; Prof Colin O'Gara, Consultant Psychiatrist. 

ESRI gambling report | Drivetime - RTÉ Radio 1 (


Problem gambling and its most severe form, gambling disorder, are defined based on the presence of symptoms and behaviours such as lying to conceal gambling repeated unsuccessful efforts to reduce gambling and needing to gamble with increasingly large amounts to achieve the desired excitement. Based on survey data, 0.3 per cent of the Irish population (approximately 12,000 people) have been estimated to suffer from problem gambling, with a further 0.9 per cent (35,000 people) at moderate risk and 2.3 per cent (90,000) at low risk. Methodological issues with survey design and response biases mean these figures are likely underestimated.



The societal burden of harm from problem gambling is large and may be accounted for mostly by people with less severe problem gambling (simply because they are more numerous). The implication is that broadly targeted interventions and policies may be warranted rather than those targeted only at those with the most severe problem gambling. Men, younger people and disadvantaged groups are at the greatest risk of problem gambling, as are those with other addictive and mental health issues. Compared to other gamblers, people with problem gambling tend to engage more in gambling with a high frequency of rounds and short intervals between wagers and potential payouts (e.g. interactive online gambling, casino gambling and electronic gaming machines).



The public negatively perceives gambling, and problem gambling tends to be highly stigmatised. Individuals often have difficulty perceiving their gambling problems and recalling their expenditures.



There is reasonably strong evidence that exposure to gambling advertising increases gambling behaviour. Several issues around gambling advertising have been highlighted by recent research, including targeting advertising at specific demographics, its unavoidability, offering financial incentives to gamble, the lack of effectiveness of ‘responsible gambling’ messaging, and the increasingly interactive nature of gambling advertising. Systematic biases in probability judgements among bettors may be an important reason why gambling operators can, and typically do, extract large profit margins on complex bets (i.e. highly specific bets, such as a bet on the combination of a first goalscorer and final scoreline in a soccer match). 



Supply-side interventions, such as limit-setting tools (i.e. a tool on a gambling website) that allow the gambler to pre-set limits on time or money spent gambling) and personalised feedback (e.g., regular updates provided by a gambling website to the gambler on their cumulative losses) effectively prevents and reduces gambling behaviour and problem gambling. The evidence favouring educational interventions for combatting the gambling problem is mixed. Therapeutic interventions, such as CBT, are effective in treating problem gambling. There is insufficient evidence to conclude that pharmacological interventions effectively treat problem gambling. 



Social casino games (i.e. online games that mimic gambling without real money) are associated with problem gambling, prompting speculation that they may act as a gateway to real gambling and problem gambling, particularly for children and adolescents. Social casino games are not subject to gambling regulation and are legally accessible to minors. Loot box’ purchasing in video games is similar to gambling but remains largely unregulated and is accessible to minors. Research shows significant correlations between loot box purchasing and problem gambling.

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