If you stumbled upon the end of a rainbow and there was a pot of gold with your name on it, would you stop asking where the money came from or would you take it and ask later?
Sport and money will always have a blurring relationship. In the past few weeks alone, we've seen Cork GAA get caught up in an argument over whether to reconcile it with Sports Direct, the reputational damage of which seems so relatively minor when you step into the debate over Daniel Kinahan's involvement in boxing.
Different sports hold different views, but no others have taken the admirably tough line of the GAA in gambling.
A few pounds on a weekend accumulator to keep the games interesting may seem harmless, and it is for the majority, but the growing problem gambling problems in Irish society and the lack of regulation in the industry have made the spotlight's performance slow elevated.
In 2018, the GAA Annual Congress overwhelmingly backed a motion that banned any form of sponsorship from a gaming company. 93 percent of the delegates voted for the ban.
With only a very small handful of existing sponsorship deals in place, the chains were relatively easy to break.
"The ban was about protecting our members and the integrity of our games," said Colin Regan, GAA Community & Health Manager.
“You will hear the links between boxing and organized crime, or the negative impact gambling can have on syndicates or outside agents trying to influence the results.
"We found that so few ATMs had any affiliation with a gaming company that it was time to strike before the horse ran away."
At the time, the hooks were still making their way through society and there were very few established connections within the GAA.
Derry had a brief stint with Ladbrokes on their jersey while Armagh had a relationship with BoyleSports who paid the € 5,000 fine Armagh was given after the row before the 2014 game with Cavan.
In terms of clubs, Crossmaglen's relationship with local company Bar One Racing was the most prominent of its kind.
That was one who left Oisin McConville in a moral dilemma. His book, The Gambler, put the lid on his own problems during his playing time.
It hadn't been released long before Crossmaglen signed the new sponsorship deal.
He had a clear choice between wearing or quitting the football and had to swallow it to keep pulling on black and amber.
Regan replaced Brendan Murphy in 2011, the latter having been on secondment from the HSE at the time when the GAA was investigating its links to alcohol amid further national discussion.
Ireland was one of the highest alcohol consumers in the OECD. The GAA developed an alcohol and drug abuse program and moved away from top-end sponsorship deals for good in 2014 after Guinness had been one of their best-known brand partners in previous years.
Rugby moved in quickly. No one has pushed the rugby country slogan harder than Guinness in the past few years, far from what it has been synonymous with hurling.
The company is now sponsoring the Six Nations, whose logo front and center are in the empty stadiums of recent weekends.
Regan remembers the days when he stopped at the local pub after underage matches for chips and minerals, "when the adults might have taken a few balls."
There was also the Tobacco Days when the British sport of Benson & Hedges, Silk Cut and Embassy in particular was so enthusiastic.
They were once so closely tied to the games themselves that competitions seemed bare when their names were banned from tying in the late 1990s.
In both cases, government legislation was slow, but eventually.
"I hope we look back on something from a legislative perspective that is similar to the change in tobacco advertising in sport. We look back now and see how we can allow this association to be so dominant and prevalent at this time." . They hope we have evolved as a society, ”says Regan.
"I'm not saying we can't go out and bet. If that's your passion, do it, but exercise by itself is sufficient without the need for financial association for the outcome.
"It's not even the outcome anymore – it's the smallest detail of what can happen in a game. It's now out of control what they're trying to align between a betting opportunity and sport. That is betting for the sake of betting."
The way the online gambling market has exploded since then has created financial powerhouses in the industry.
Their willingness to get in touch with top-class sport and to finance it appears less from the goodness of their hearts than from reasons of visibility.
Irish players pump 14 million euros a day into the industry. Ireland ranks third in the world in per capita losses.
In 2018, the GAA's sponsorship ban was about not missing out on what they never had.
Gambling companies have rarely had a direct relationship with the GAA, but they handle a lot of young people who are scattered in locker rooms across the country.
Not that that is considered, but even the very idea of ever suffering from the need for income and lifting the sponsorship ban is a total non-runner for Regan.
"I don't think there would be any support within the club," he says.
"It is time the government properly taxed the enormous sums of money the gambling industry made from Gaelic Games and returned it to addiction services" – Colin Regan, Community & Health Manager, GAA
"It is time the government properly taxed the huge sums of money the gambling industry is making from Gaelic Games and redirecting it back into addiction services."
“When it comes to gambling, the services on this private island bar are basically null and void. Funds for health promotion programs and initiatives run through the sports network should be earmarked.
"This is not the GAA that is uniquely benefiting from it. I think there is an opportunity for pan-athletic initiatives to address related issues, perhaps with a special focus on men's health issues related to suicide rates."
"A unified voice from GAA, rugby, soccer, athletics and hockey can reach audiences that public health news just can't," says the former Leitrim player.
Perhaps the scariest statistic of all is that the UK Gambling Commission review in 2018 found that 55,000 children – yes, children – were "problem gamblers." In the UK, more children put weekly than drugs or alcohol.
Ireland does not have a gambling commission. It's an industry that is so poorly regulated in this country, but successive governments have pulled their heels.
A gambling control law has been rattling around the Dáil for the last eight years, while Irish law continues to allow wagering on credit cards – basically people gamble with money they don't have.
The laws are based on laws from 1931 and 1956, long before the Internet.
The College of Psychiatrists of Ireland in December called for an "urgent ban" on advertising gambling in sports, saying Covid-19 was feeding an already "hidden epidemic" and a "public health crisis".
There is no vaccine.
The reliability of the data on this subject is questionable. Some studies suggest there are 30,000 problem gamblers in the republic, others say 40,000 in the north, which would be out of sync with their population.
Governments tend not to restrict big business and gambling is one of the biggest with an estimated annual value of € 8 billion.
Irish players pump in 14 million euros a day. That's € 10,000 per minute. Ireland ranks third in the world in per capita losses.
Flutter Entertainment, which has a dominant stake in the UK and Ireland as the new umbrella for Paddy Power, Betfair and Sky Bet, had sales of £ 1.33 billion in one quarter of 2020 alone.
In the three months ended September 30th last year, online sales rose a third from the previous quarter as the sport returned while the Irish market grew 26 percent and the UK grew 32 percent.
Big bookmakers have money lying around that many have decided to get back into sports.
During the toughest financial times for all of sport, the gambling industry has done much of the support of the Premier League.
Eight top-class teams have the names of gambling companies on their jerseys. It was ten last season. In total, this contributed to £ 69million in the 2019/20 season alone.
The channels, which were able to broadcast every single game live during the Covid pandemic, are making a fortune with advertising.
West Ham's £ 20m deal with BetWay is the largest sponsorship deal among the current eight Premier League clubs to have a bookie name on their shirts. In the 2018-19 season, Premier League clubs were worth £ 69m, despite the UK government considering a ban.
For example, when sport was suspended during the pandemic last year, Sky's advertising revenue fell 43 percent. The reasons cited were stricter laws restricting the advertising of gambling in the UK.
Even so, there were no less than 24 separate gambling commercials in the first two games after the Premier League returned, 14 of which were shown before 9pm.
All forms of mainstream media are heavily loaded with gambling advertising. There are also indirect indications, e.g. B. Game previews with the odds of winning.
Whether accepting advertising money from bookmakers hurts media credibility is a fair question.
“I understand the financial requirements of the media industry, the challenges surrounding print media are particularly enormous, but the ATM can be kept to an incredibly high standard. Rightly so, because we challenge ourselves to meet these standards, ”says Colin Regan.
"It is really important that the media as an industry see their position within society in this regard."
It's an area the GPA has delved into.
Against the background of the jointly commissioned ESRI report in 2018 and the ban on sponsorship, the players' association submitted a motion to last year's annual congress in which it was proposed to introduce a ban on broadcasters who advertise gambling during ATMs.
That was always much more difficult to do. It has been forwarded to the Central Council for discussion, but since the GAA would try to dictate to broadcasters what advertising they can accept, this is a long road that ultimately goes back to the question of legislation.
But they are determined to keep the subject in the foreground.
"This is something we will continue to do our utmost to promote when it comes to banning advertisements while live games are being broadcast," said Jennifer Rogers, GPA's Player Welfare Manager.
"As soon as Covid-19 settles down again, it will be prioritized. We take every opportunity to make change, but our main concern is taking care of the players and making sure the support is there for them when they need it. "
Because when it comes to seeing the human cost, she's at the forefront.
OISIN McConville was the first high-profile GAA player to talk about a gambling addiction in his 2007 book The Gambler.
McConville is now a trained advisor and speaks regularly on the subject along with Offaly striker Niall McNamee.
During the first lockdown, they both hosted a GAA webinar with former Galway hurler and psychotherapist Justin Campbell.
"Oisin and Niall said they are still getting calls from GAA people who are in distress or starting to suspect they might be problematic gamblers," Regan says.
Just a few months ago, current Armagh striker Stefan Campbell spoke about his own problems in an interview with McConville.
He joined Galway hurler Davy Glennon, whose strong memory of losing € 12,000 in the week leading up to the 2015 Leinster Final left his mind in ruins.
His game lasted only 24 minutes. Glennon hit rock bottom the following week and considered suicide before seeking help from his parents.
The GPA's counseling services were praised in his interviews after he spoke publicly after putting his life back on its feet.
When McConville took the floor, Ireland's conversation about mental health was only just beginning. And while progress has been made, there is still a sense of stigma attached to it.
The GPA does not provide any concrete, recent figures on the problems faced by those who turn to their advisory services to protect their confidentiality.
The last two numbers available showed the transition.
In 2014, 38 players had reported problems related to depression. 19 had faced gambling problems.
By the following year, gambling problems had overtaken everything else. 29 players, nearly 25 percent of the total number of cases that year, related to betting.
Figures beyond 2015 are no longer publicly available, largely because the GPA decided to strengthen the confidentiality of its services. Problem gambling, however, is “one of the most important issues every year,” says Jennifer Rogers, herself a Westmeath soccer player.
"What we know from players, and about young men in general, is that they are reluctant to seek support because of the stigma that is there." We have the numbers ourselves, we don't share them because of confidentiality, ”adds the Westmeath footballer.
The meager services and cost of private rehabilitation on top of the gambling debt can weigh very heavily. One in five problem gamblers will attempt suicide.
Previous international studies have shown that elite athletes are at particular risk of gambling problems, even though the amateur element creates an information deficit when playing ATMs.
NUI Maynooth was supposed to launch a national gambling prevalence survey last year, but Covid stopped the idea.
Just as there is little regulation, so are few numbers.
“In the absence of very accurate data, gaming company ad spend is a good indicator of how the industry is developing. I think that speaks for itself right now, ”says Regan.
A valuable piece of data was the ESRI report commissioned by the GAA / GPA, which found that 80 percent of inter-county gamblers felt they had teammates betting "daily or weekly".
A 2012 GPA survey found that 7 percent of respondents had a gambling culture in their own roster, showing the increase in prevalence.
"It's important to say that problem gambling is a broader societal problem and GAA and GPA are just a microcosm," said Rogers.
The player's body made PaddyPower surrender twice. They made their disapproval known when the bookmaker used player names and pictures in 2015 for a list of the 100 most attractive male players selected by American women.
The GPA was then confirmed by the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) on behalf of Dublin and Mayo players about the use of image rights around the 2018 final.
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