ESRI defends Irish problem gambling study after criticism

Woman upset about slot machines

The researcher who led a study into problem gambling rates in Ireland defended the findings after criticism from Flutter Entertainment’s CEO last week. [Image:]

Conflicting views

A researcher in Ireland has defended the results of a recent gambling study that the CEO of Flutter Entertainment said was inaccurate. Peter Lunn, a professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), led the study, which found that around one in thirty adults in Ireland are problem gamblers, which equates to around 130,000 people.

Flutter CEO Peter Jackson claimed that the ESRI used outdated sources when conducting the research, pointing to an NHS survey that found the risk of gambling was 0.4% of the total population, which is 1 in 250 people would correspond.

ESRI’s data is “peer-reviewed, publicly available and therefore open to audit.”

In conversation with the Business PostProfessor Lunn claimed Jackson’s sources were old and said a more recent report from the UK Gambling Commission actually gave a much larger estimate of problem gambling rates compared to the ESRI’s findings. Lunn also noted that ESRI’s data is “peer-reviewed, publicly available and therefore open to scrutiny.”

More realistic survey methods

Peter Jackson gave a speech last week on the day Flutter announced its total revenue of 9.5 billion pounds ($12 billion) in 2023. He admitted that he had not personally seen the ESRI report and was told that it suggested that gambling was a “bigger societal problem than our real-world experiences or independent research that we have seen suggests.”

The number of players at risk was ten times higher than in a 2019 study

The ESRI report was insightful as it showed that problem gambling rates in the country were much higher than previously thought. The number of gamblers at risk was ten times higher than in a 2019 study and these individuals account for more than a quarter of the total amount gambled in Ireland each year.

Lunn explained that the much higher results in 2023 were because the previous estimates were based on personal rather than anonymous interviews. He said people tend to be more open about their true behavior when they can answer questions secretly.

Big changes are coming to Ireland

The Ministry of Justice and the implementation team supporting the establishment of Ireland’s Gambling Regulatory Authority commissioned ESRI to carry out the study. The October release came as many industry stakeholders were lobbying against certain restrictions that the expected gambling regulation bill would introduce when it is expected to come into force in the coming months.

Flutter Entertainment is headquartered in Ireland and averages more than 12.3 million monthly players worldwide.

One of the major concerns concerns a ban on gambling-related advertising on television daily between 5:30 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. The racing broadcasters in particular believe that this step could make broadcasting the action on television “economically unviable”.


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