Paddy Power Co-Founder Resigned over Irresponsible Approach to Problem Gambling

  • Stewart Kenny says he has some regrets about his three decades in the gambling sector
  • Calling for better regulations to be put in place to cut potential losses for gamblers
  • Believes advertising restrictions would stop children associating sports with gambling
  • Expects companies to suffer if they fail to address alarming addiction rates
the shopfront of a Paddy Power betting shop
Paddy Power co-founder Stewart Kenny says he stepped down because the industry was ‘doing absolutely nothing about gambling addiction’. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Reason behind exit

Paddy Power co-founder Stewart Kenny has revealed that he left Paddy Power Betfair in 2016 due to the industry’s irresponsible approach to problem gambling. 

During an interview with ABC News, Kenny said he believes little has been done to address his concerns. He wants the industry to take a much more proactive approach to tackle gambling addiction.

Kenny also believes that the local gambling sector as a whole is effectively doing nothing to deal with growing addiction rates.

Kenny’s views on the industry

Kenny was one of the pioneers for the modern sports betting space and spent more than three decades in the sector. However, he has a number of regrets about his time in the industry and believes he could have done more to help with problem gambling.

I should have seen the harm from gambling addiction much earlier than I did. And must take some of the blame.”

He did note that he believes sports betting is not as harmful to people as the likes of casino games or slot machines. Kenny was staunchly opposed to the introduction of slot machines in his native Ireland.

Kenny also highlighted how Australians lose more money gambling than any other nation due to the prevalence of pokies (slot machines) in its society.

What changes can be made?

Kenny is calling for further regulations to be implemented in the gambling sector to cut potential losses for gamblers. In his opinion, changes must be made to make gambling products safer and less addictive.

He believes that mandatory deposit limits should be in place. Such a measure would require a new customer to set a limit on how much they can deposit on a given day.

If changes are not made, Kenny believes that there will be a massive backlash against the gambling sector. He said: “If they don’t curb some of their products then I think they will become toxic and they will get a stench off them like the tobacco industry.”

Impact of gambling adverts

Paddy Power became a powerhouse in the European sports betting market thanks to its unique advertising campaigns. However, Kenny believes that children are being harmed as a result of the all-encompassing advertising. 

Kenny spoke about how it is important that gambling does not become normalized for children. He also doesn’t want children to see gambling as something that should always be associated with sport.

75% of 8-16 year olds believe that gambling is a normal part of sports

He does admit that it is only in recent times that he has become aware of just how harmful gambling advertising can be. He cites a study from 2017 that showcases how 75% of 8-16 year-olds believe that gambling is a normal part of sports. 

The children at the heart of this survey could name numerous gambling firms. They knew branding colors and even the specific types of promotions each firm offered. The likes of refund and cashback offers create a perception that gambling can have minimal risk attached to it.

Attempts to curtail addiction

Across the UK and Ireland, gambling addiction rates have been increasing at an alarming in recent years. There is also a significant uptick in the number of underage people who are gambling.

While some groups have been trying to introduce stricter gambling regulations, gambling companies have been fighting back against any such restrictions. 

The UK’s Labour Party is fighting for an end to gambling companies sponsoring sports teams and events. Half of the teams in the English Premier League currently have gambling companies as their shirt sponsor.

Kenny is in favor of such a ban, as shirt sponsorship normalizes betting to children. He believes the gambling sector can still be very lucrative for companies, but it also must be more responsible and ethical.