Every day Extern’s Problem Gambling team see the human impact which this issue can have on people’s lives, whatever their age or social background.

As a person-centred organisation, we see the person before the problem – be that someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, son or daughter. For so many, the shame and stigma of speaking up about their addiction can be a huge barrier to seeking support.

But every person who is going through gambling addiction has a powerful story to tell, a story which might just help others seeking to find a way out of their situation.

A poem by 

In March 2020, Extern Problem Gambling was contacted by the Sosped charity in Finland with an invitation to collaborate, along with our Norwegian partners Spillavhengighet Norge, on a new programme aimed at giving voice to people with lived experience of problem gambling.

This type of transnational collaboration had never been tried before in the gambling lived experience space, and we were excited and honoured to be involved. By doing this type of work, people with lived experience of gambling addiction can help to reduce the stigma associated with this issue.

Ireland has the third highest gambling losses per adult, in the world (based on 2016 figures).

Through our participation in this programme, we have learned that there has never been a greater need for more voices to advocate for reform of the gambling industry and improved public health supports to treat and prevent gambling addiction and gambling harms in Ireland. We believe that Experts by Experience can - and should - play a vital role in this process, at all levels of policy-making.

Declan's Story

“The Experts by Experience course gave me the tools and confidence to help people in their gambling recovery. I now facilitate a Gambling Recovery session every week, with a group of five people who are in recovery. I use what I learned in the course to help, support and guide these people, as well as sharing my own lived experience, and sharing what I did to overcome my own addiction.” Adam

“This course made me look at my addiction and recovery in a very different way. It made me understand how my addiction developed and how I can use my experience to help others.” Darren

“The Experts by Experience programme has provided me with the opportunity to learn about gambling regulation within Ireland and other countries and also to build a peer support network in Ireland for the first time since entering recovery.” Claire

“Doing the Experts by Experience programme cemented my belief that there is a much-needed space to hear the story of those with lived experience. Lawmakers, the media and those in active addiction can only benefit from the knowledge of those who've been there and come out the other side.” Eoin

12,000 adults in Ireland are problem gamblers and a further 125,000 people considered to be “at-risk” gamblers (Health Research Board, November 2022)

Early intervention… Extern’s Youth Awareness Programme

Extern too has played a key role in enabling people to share their thoughts and feelings on the issue of problem gambling. Since 2021, Extern Problem Gambling has successfully delivered a series of workshops, funded through the HSE National Lottery Grants scheme, to secondary school pupils across key areas within ROI.

While the legal age for gambling in Ireland is currently 18, statistics have shown that the problem gambling rate among teenage boys in Ireland has more than doubled in the last 4-5 years, and that just over 3,400 Irish schoolchildren aged 15-16 may be gambling either problematically or excessively.

Half of people who bet through their smartphones become problem gamblers (NUI Galway study)

Our schools-based sessions offer an opportunity to engage with young people, in a completely non-judgmental way, about these issues and encourage them to reflect on how they may be impacted by gambling, even if they are not aware of it.

The session shave generated incredibly positive feedback from students and teachers alike, with many praising the honest and open way in which we tackle the issue of problem gambling.

“Tony's school talk was incredibly engaging. Students were absolutely enthralled by his story. At the end of the talk, our students were really interested in learning more about supports, addiction and mental health services and the rehabilitation and prison systems. Tony’s story had it all, and most importantly it had a powerful message about getting help when you need it.”

Sion Hill College, Dublin

“As a teacher in all boys secondary school gambling is something that has affected a large number of our students and their families. Tony’s talk was so successful because it clearly charted how easily someone could become a victim of this addiction.”

Coláiste Choilm, Tullamore

“From the minute Tony started speaking, he had the Transition Year audience in the palm of his hand. Tony’s talk is gripping from start to finish, told in a way that will have audiences of all ages gripped. He tells the story of his first bet which acted as the hook to his eventual destructive behaviour that caused him to lose everything. His story is one of enduring sadness, regret and ultimate redemption.”

Rockwell College, Tipperary

Less than 1% of people who would benefit from problem gambling treatment receive it. (Gamble Aware, 2011)