Gambling addiction should be dealt with in the same way as smoking has been tackled with “the full gamut of advertising regulation”, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.
He was responding to questions on the attendance by some Government TDs and Senators at Punchestown Races as guests of the Irish Bookmakers Association.
Their attendance at the races came at a time when the Coalition is planning to strengthen laws surrounding gambling including plans to restrict advertising and to bring in a gambling regulator.
Mr Martin was asked if the politicians involved should apologise for attending the event.
He said: “I’m not going to personalise it… I think lessons need to be learned from this in terms of getting on the side of working towards dealing with the addictions that flow from gambling.”
He said the Minister of State for Justice James Browne has been “pioneering very comprehensive legislation to deal with the gambling issue and to deal with addiction more generally, but particularly gambling.”
Of the Punchestown issue he said: “Perhaps it reflects a broader issue and complacency around society” and added: “I don’t believe in going after witch-hunts about individuals”.
Mr Martin said: “I think the more important point is that we need to profile how challenging or how traumatic the gambling addiction is and the impact it has on families and on individuals.
“It is a shocking addiction because it can wreak havoc”.
“So I would prefer to bring people with me on a journey to really dealing with gambling, like we’ve been dealing with tobacco, like we’ve been dealing with alcohol… and that means across the full gamut of advertising regulation and so on.”
Mr Martin – who brought in the workplace smoking ban when he was Minister for Health – conceded that efforts on alcohol have not been as successful as those related to tobacco.