In a surprise move the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), Ireland’s largest amateur sporting organization, recently voted to ban all its members from accepting sponsorships from betting operators. The move was not just surprising, it was also very popular, 93 percent of delegates in attendance supported the measure.
According to a report in the Irish Times, GAA administrators think that the relationship between amateur athletes and problem gambling has reached something of a crisis level.
Management committee member and Connacht chair Mick Rock, who sponsored the measure explained his reasoning saying:
A survey conducted in 2015 showed a higher prevalence of addiction amongst Gaelic athletes than among other, professional athletes.
Rock went on to say that of the 77 Irish athletes who were referred to the Gaelic Players’ Association (GPA) for counseling, more than half of them were problem gamblers.
In an interview TheJournal.ie, addiction counsellor Alan Martin spoke of his experiences with GAA members saying:
What I discovered more and more is that these lads are looking for a high and a buzz from the sports field. They lead a healthy life and when they come off the sports field, they’re kind of left feeling a bit somewhat empty and they’re looking for some buzz or that chase and it might be a small gamble that might start them off.
Though the GAA is not under the auspices of the UK Gambling Commission, the move mirrors efforts by that organization to crack down on gambling operators in whatever way possible. The gambling industry shouldn’t feel like it’s being singled out. The GAA is also considering a measure to ban sponsorships from alcohol companies, too.