Posted on: December 22, 2022, 11:15h. 

Last updated on: December 22, 2022, 11:43h.

Gambling opponents always want a new reason to attack the industry, and a new study in Ireland will give them a lot of fodder. Ireland’s Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), along with the Higher Education Authority, conducted research that it says directly links athletic activity to an increase in gambling.

Economic and Social Research Institute
A plaque carrying the name of Ireland’s Economic and Social Research Institute welcomes visitors to the office. The organization has concluded a study that allegedly shows a direct link between participation in team sports and gambling. (Image: RTE)

Irish media outlet reports on the study, which concluded that adolescent males who participate in team sports are “four times more likely to be regular gamblers.” The emphasis is on males, as according to the research, the same conclusion doesn’t apply to female athletes.

The results will undoubtedly find their way into anti-gambling arguments and the continued discussion about separating sports from sports betting and gambling advertising. Ireland is in the process of implementing a new gaming regulator and new regulations, which means the research will likely make its way into new rules.

Young Athletes Like to Gamble

The research appeared in the Journal of Gambling Studies and adds that no other external factors played a role in reaching the conclusions. Things like education, household background, and employment status were irrelevant to the findings.

Athletes between 17 and 20 who participate in team-based sports are prone to gambling, according to the research. The study didn’t indicate how long ago researchers compiled their data, but it added that the level of online gambling increased by almost 300% in three years.

However, the data has to be at least four years old. Researchers explained in their paper that they will contact the subjects again next year, “when they will be 25 years old.”

When the subjects were 17 years old, 2.6% of them gamble online. By the time they reached 20, the figure increased to 9.3%.

That covers the growth of participation among those subjects during the three-year period. However, 15.8% of male athletes who were 20 when the study began gambled online. That’s five times more than the 2.9% reported among female athletes, according to the research.

In addition, 7.2% of all 20-year-old subjects are regular gamblers. The study indicates that this means they wager at least once every month. Furthermore, online gambling rates increase for those males who played team sports consistently from 17 years of age to 20.

Drilling Down to the Root

To compile the data, the researchers turned to the Growing Up in Ireland study. This is a government-led initiative that began in 2006 and which the ESRI and Trinity College Dublin manage.

Using data from 4,500 youths, the researchers selected those who participated in team sports. About one-third of the amount fell into this category.

From there, they extrapolated the gambling activity and demographics. They found no links between the subjects and their gambling preference, other than their participation in team sports.

At the same time, the researchers acknowledged that more studies are needed to better understand the relationship. Still, they emphasize that their conclusions support the theory that the “establishment and dissemination of social norms around gambling among young males engaged in team sports played a role in the higher prevalence of both online and regular gambling by them.”