Irish TV presenter Baz Ashmawy is dwelling on problem gambling and the lack of information about the growing issue in Ireland in his new documentary All Bets Are Off, which premieres Monday at 9:35 pm local time on Irish channel RTÉ One.
The popular presenter won an Emmy Award in 2015 for his show 50 Ways to Kill Your Mammy in which he convinced his then 70-year-old mother to perform dare-devil stunts and documented her hilarious reactions of a typical Irish mammy.
Ashmawy’s new project revolves around a much more serious topic which he believes has not been paid much attention to by Irish media over the years.
The presenter talked about the making of All Bets Are Off at The Ray D’Arcy Show this past Saturday. The presenter pointed out that gambling is much bigger of an issue in his country than people actually realize and that there is not much awareness about it.
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Ashmawy explains in All Bets Are Off that the program was the hardest one he has ever made, although he has been creating documentaries for over two decades. He said that trying to encourage problem gamblers to talk about their issues was as difficult as making a “program on pedophilia”.
According to a 2016 report compiled by research firm H2 Gambling Capital, Irish people are the third-biggest gambling losers in the world with annual losses per resident adult amounting to around $500 and total full-year gambling losses of $2.2 billion. The study further points out that half of Irish gamblers’ losses are incurred by gambling on online gambling websites and via mobile apps.
Part of the Problem
Ashmawy admits to being part of the problem. He says in his new program that he himself has gambling apps on his smartphone and that “loads of lads do”, which practically trivializes gambling activities.
On the other hand, he has found that there is such a “huge amount of shame with problem gambling” that people suffering from gambling addiction avoid talking to others about their issues. Ashmawy further dwells on the fact that online betting and gaming accounts help gamblers get addicted and hide their addiction.
Tony O’Reilly is one of the people with gambling issues featured on All Bets Are Off. A former post office manager, Tony stole more than €1.75 million from his workplace to fuel his gambling habits. He tried to run away but was eventually caught and sentenced to prison.
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Comparing gambling addiction to other addictions, Ashmawy says in his upcoming documentary that while many other addictions affect mostly the addicted person, gambling also affects those around the addict, sometimes leaving whole families on the street.
The TV presenter largely blames the growing problem on the lack of proper information from within Ireland. He points out that all they know about problem gambling in the country comes from studies conducted from outside Ireland.
Gambling services are currently regulated in Ireland under the country’s outdated Betting Act 1931 and Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956. A 2008 report by a specially appointed Casino Committee outlined the need for new regulations that would meet the demands of contemporary gambling customers and protect them properly from the risks posed by excessive (and unregulated) gambling.
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The Gambling Control Bill 2013 was introduced to repeal the above-mentioned two acts and present a uniform licensing and regulatory system. However, little action was taken with regard to the bill over the past five years.
Earlier this year, Fianna Fáil, Ireland’s main opposition party, submitted the Gambling Control Bill 2018 that was largely based on its 2013 predecessor. The piece of legislation covers all sectors of the gambling industry from land-based casinos to online gambling websites and aims to create a licensing system, to set out a framework for the regulation of gambling, and to introduce measures for the protection of gambling customers and for helping people with problem gambling behavior. It is yet to be seen how and when the government will act on the new bill.