GAMBLING with Lives, a charity created by families bereaved by gambling-related suicides, has launched a revolutionary new education program for young people in Northern Ireland.
The launch event at Stormont on Tuesday, September 28 was sponsored by Robbie Butler MLA and co-sponsored by Paula Bradley MLA and Philip McGuigan MLA.
Pete and Sadie Keogh, from Enniskillen, who are part of the association, were present at the launch. Their son, Lewis, committed suicide after becoming addicted to gambling.
Pete was very pleased with how the day unfolded and the media coverage it garnered around the world, showing that problem gambling is a global problem.
“It was a very emotional day but it was also worth it,” said Pete. “This is a powerful international article on the real dangers of gambling addiction.”
Pete said there were 141 reports on the launch, in English, German, French and Spanish, and it also aired in Namibia.
“It shows that gambling is a global problem. We got so much interest from the South too, it’s amazing.
“The problem with the game doesn’t stop at Belturbet. We hope we will do it first in Northern Ireland and then in the rest of Ireland. ”
The program, which aims to prevent gambling harm among young people, will be piloted in schools in Northern Ireland and England before being rolled out across the UK.
Created by gambling harm experts, academics, teachers, award-winning filmmakers and people with lived experience of gambling harms, the program aims to influence the way gambling awareness education is delivered to young people. and address the lack of information and help currently available – something that leads to the loss of lives every year.
It is based on solid and published research on education and awareness of other products such as drugs, tobacco and alcohol and covers the basics of gambling, including understanding the odds, risks and “The house advantage”.
But, most importantly, it also focuses on how addictive products work, as well as the methods and impact of industry marketing, which sets it apart from programs offered by industry-funded charities.
Northern Ireland has a higher rate of gambling disorders than any other region in the UK, with up to 2.3 percent of the adult population addicted to gambling.
Across the UK, it is believed that there are 250 to 650 gambling-related suicides each year, with people addicted to gambling being up to 15 times more likely to kill themselves than members of the general population.
The launch of Stormont comes at the right time, as the Assembly examines the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Entertainment (Amendment) Bill, the first major reform of gambling law in Northern Ireland in over 35 years old.
Speaking at the event on Tuesday, Sadie said: “Children are taught the dangers of alcohol, drugs and smoking; we talk to them about road safety and sexual predators, but no one talks to them about the gaming industry and its most dangerous products, or the harm they can so easily inflict.
“Appropriate gambling education could save many lives each year in Northern Ireland, where we have high levels of gambling disorder, and proper treatment is difficult to access compared to drug and alcohol addiction.”
Pete said the program was “long overdue” and with a pilot project underway this year to refine the program, he hopes every school in Northern Ireland will have it available by next September.
But while he hailed this as another step in raising awareness, Pete also wanted to encourage people in Fermanagh who are struggling to gamble to come forward and ask for help.
“I know there are young and old players in our part of the world, but they’re so reluctant to come forward, but if you don’t get treatment for it, you won’t be cured,” added Pete.