Many Irish people have no source of income other than that of social welfare payments. Yet there is one thing that people in each financial position mentioned are tempted by, gambling.
There is no set monetary class to which a gambler belongs, which is evident if you walk through casinos in Dublin, such as Dr Quirkey’s on O’Connell Street, which attracts a varied crowd. This is also apparent upon entering bookies, especially around the time of massive annual betting events, where non-frequent gamblers come out to play.
They play the game of uncertainty, which is essentially the main feature of the gambling world. The thrill of simply not knowing the possible outcome and indeed the possibility of increasing your stake, entices many people to gamble.
Every member of the social media site Facebook has at some point had a request to play “Texas Hold’em Poker” pop up in their sidebar. Virtual gambling has become one the primary vices of the so-called "Web 2.0". According to the WinIreland.com, the pace for online gambling in Ireland was once slow, but is now picking up as people face no discrimination while gambling online and are able to place bets with global gaming sites as well as Irish bookmakers.
Well-known DCU alumni and business studies student, Paddy Power, established his empire of licensed bookmaker chains in 1988. Paddy Power now offers elite online betting services in addition to Ireland’s largest telephone betting network.
While a lot of people enjoy gambling and view it as a harmless pastime, others are unable to break away from the chains of this addictive world. It's difficult to explain gambling addiction, but it has been interestingly defined by the Irish Addiction Advice Agency as: “a progressive disorder characterised by a continuous or periodic loss of control over gambling; a preoccupation with gambling and with obtaining money with which to gamble; irrational thinking; and a continuation of the behaviour despite adverse consequences”.
Research has shown that there are six reasons why people possibly become addicted to gambling such as; a means of coping with a traumatic or difficult life experience, as a method of coping with daily stress, in pursuit of thrills, the illusion that one can get rich, to try and win back previous losses or as a tool of self- destruction. Gambling has a profound effect on the pleasure chemicals in the body and as gamblers experience this legal high, repeat gambling begins. Unfortunately, if the gambling continues to worsen, so do the serious consequences for the individual and their loved ones.
Second year journalism student and Paddy Power podcaster, Barry Lenihan, shared his insights into the world of gambling with Campus.ie. He feels that gambling is sometimes worthwhile.
“Betting adds excitement to an event, whether it's the football on a Saturday or two flies going up a wall. The adrenaline rush from willing your bet home is unbeatable, the feeling of winning and even the near misses. You just can't match the excitement and the thrill”.
Anyone who has ever placed a bet is aware that there can be a great social aspect to betting. Lenihan feels that Ireland hosts some of the best festivals of racing, featuring; “Galway, Leopardstown at Christmas and Punchestown”. He feels that gambling brings “retired fellas” and “fellas who are out of work” together, as it allows them to socalise and meet new people, perhaps in the local bookies. The Grand National for instance gained huge attention around the country as “everyone had their flutter” and “everyone enjoyed it”.
Lenihan told Campus.ie of his passion and ambitions related to the world of horse racing:
“I just love the horses and the betting and all that goes with it, I would love to have a broadcasting career involved in it”.
However, he reiterated the downsides to the somewhat thrilling experience of gambling.
“I've been at roulette tables in casinos and seen fellas lose thousands in minutes; you always hear stories about people who have had their lives destroyed by gambling”.
In terms of reasons for increased gambling, he feels that the problem is time.
“When I have lots of time on my hands, I'll gamble. I'll bet big and often. And often it's people who have loads of time on their hands who'll bet consistently, and for them betting becomes a bad habit”.
In contrast, mature student Shane Flynn views casino betting as a somewhat skillful way of making money quickly.
“Before coming to college I played as a professional poker player for about three or four years, and it’s what I used to pay my way through college”, said Flynn. He told Campus.ie that he never “played for fun” and said it “it was always business".
As a former professional poker player, Flynn said that he doesn’t see gambling as “fun” because “gambling implies losing” and loss is something that the pro finds hard to believe is enjoyable. He commented: “I find it grating when someone describes playing poker as a living as gambling. It’s a negative connotation. If you’re a winning poker player, like a casino you have the long-term edge, and no one considers what a casino does as gambling”.
Unlike many people who become caught up in the uncertain realm, Flynn maintained balance as he didn’t find playing poker addictive and thought of it in the same light as “any other job”. He said that it never interfered with college work or any other aspect of his life and claimed that “one of the most important things about doing something like that for a living is discipline and balance”. He referred to playing professional poker as a “highly stressful and intense occupation”, a statement which may come as a surprise to some.
Flynn told Campus.ie that he began to have a keen interest in poker during the time when a TV show known as “Late Night Poker” was aired and his brother played poker online as a hobby and was “successful”. Flynn recalls finding the idea “very exciting” and he began “studying the game intensely”. When he was 18 he left a minimum wage job, following several successful nights of playing poker at a local casino, and began his new career. “I played in bigger games, and then made the transition to online poker as it offered a much better lifestyle”, said a knowledgeable Shane Flynn.
It may be somewhat hard to draw the line between what we define as gambling, but it is clear that taking a daily trip to the bookies should spark a red light. Nevertheless, this is not to say that we shouldn’t throw down a cheeky fiver each way on Synchronized in next year’s Grand National. Or maybe it is.