In-depth research by a Donegal man, investigating the gambling habits of young people and its links to sport, has drawn some grim findings.
Dr Darragh McGee is a lecturer at the University of Bath.
A native of St Johnston, McGee spent the last two years analysing two groups of people, aged between 18 and 35, in Derry and Bristol.
The project, funded by the British Academy, recorded the gambling habits of the groups and many indicated that they are now unable to watch a football match unless they have placed a bet. Some even note how their ‘football conversations’ are now about bets rather than the actual game.
“The profound appeal of online sports gambling has had dire consequences for many young men,” McGee says.
McGee, a son of Liam and Jacqueline McGee from Ardagh in St Johnston, was a noted footballer himself.
Having played for both Letterkenny Rovers and Kildrum Tigers at underage level, McGee featured for Rovers’ senior team. He went on to play for Finn Harps in the League of Ireland Premier Division under Anthony Gorman for a brief period.
McGee’s research finds that most of the people he surveyed ‘end up ensnared in a cycle of indebtedness’.
He includes the example of a 31-year-old from Derry who turned to drug dealing in a bid to recoup money he lost and who was ‘in debt to my eyeballs’.
Betting companies dominate the advertising landscape at the top level, with nine of the 20 English Premier League clubs having the front of their shirts emblazoned by a logo from one of them.
The ratio rises even further in the Championship, with 17 of the 24 clubs sponsored by a betting company.
McGee says that ‘a new generation of sports fans view gambling as vital to their enjoyment of sport’.
McGee’s research is due to be published academically in the next year.