The true extent of problem gambling in Ireland is unknown. A reasonable estimate suggests up to 250,000 people are affected — 50,000 severely so. Some people continue to view problem gambling as a character flaw or personal weakness, and believe the consequences are an individual’s own responsibility. However, such views are not supported by empirical evidence.
In an article in the Sunday Independent last year, Professor Colin O’Gara, head of addiction services at St John of God in Stillorgan, Dublin explained how brain scanning studies, psychological testing and genetic data point towards the disordered function of dopamine in brain areas that control the ability to make decisions and measure risk.
In problem gambling, he said, the ability to make rational decisions is absent and the person goes on to chase losses in a highly disordered manner.