Paddy Power Co-Founder: Gambling Is Becoming “Normal” for Children

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Gambling advertising is “normalizing” betting for children, and radical change is called for, according to a co-founder of Paddy Power.

Children are being bombarded with betting adverts

Founded in 1988, Paddy Power is an Irish bookmaker firm based in Dublin, Ireland. It was founded by Stewart Kenny, David Power, and John Corcoran. Since its founding, Paddy Power has become a €10bn (£9bn; $11.4bn) gambling company. Yet, one of the co-founders thinks more should be done to protect children from it.

Speaking to The Times, Kenny disagreed with Peter Jackson, the company’s CEO, who spoke out recently against tighter restrictions on the gambling market.

Regarding proposed legislation passed by the Italian parliament banning gambling-related advertising and sponsorships, Jackson said: “I’m not sure that necessarily is the right answer because it will be a place where potentially some of the offshore or illegal bookmakers could try to encroach on a market, and that isn’t helpful if you’ve got aggressive, irresponsible operators. We’ll see where things end up in Ireland.”

In Kenny’s opinion, Jackson was “completely wrong” in this regard.

Kenny said: “There needs to be a radical change. It’s normalizing gambling for kids. I don’t think any parent in the country really appreciates being bombarded with the amount of gambling advertising. I don’t even think it’s in the interests of the betting industry because I think it’s alienating them from all the parents in the country.”

He added that he didn’t see any logic in Jackson’s views that a ban could lead to illegal operators as long as bookmakers don’t charge their customers a tax.

“There used to be [illegal operators] in the ’80s, when [there] was a 20% betting tax, the country was rife with illegal operators, but that isn’t the case any longer,” Kenny stated.

Protecting children

The issue of protecting young kids from gambling remains an ongoing discussion. Children often play video games, but gambling games unfortunately exist that could potentially appeal to children.

So much so that it was reported in May that the UK’s Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) banned three games on a gambling website as a result of their perceived appeal to children. The games banned on m88 were Fairytale Legends Red Riding Hood, Fairytale Legends Hansel and Gretel, and Fairies Forest.

In April, game developers of four popular games were given eight weeks to fix illegal in-game loot boxes by the Dutch Gambling Authority after it was found that they had violated Dutch gambling laws. This was shortly followed by a similar move from the Belgium Gaming Commission, who also deemed in-game loot boxes as illegal in three games.

Officials in both jurisdictions argued that loot boxes shouldn’t be made accessible to children and that it was dangerous for mental health at such a young age.

According to a 2017 study by the UK’s Gambling Commission (UKGC), 11% of 11-16-year-olds had placed bets in the UK with gambling skins. At the time, this meant that around 500,000 children under the age of 15 could have been using skins for gambling.

The issue of gambling among young children has meant many of them don’t even realize they are in fact gambling. This is noted by a March report that showed 25,000 children in the UK are problem gamblers, according to think tank Demos, an independent educational charity.

As a result, it has started piloting lessons in secondary schools to educate children and prevent gambling-related harm. Demos contacted 650 pupils, and 40% of them didn’t think that gambling was dangerous. In the last year, 41% indicated that they had taken part in gambling.

Unfortunately, unless more is done to make children aware of the dangers of gambling, the children of today will become the problem gamblers of tomorrow.