Department of Education & Skills, Marlborough Street, Dublin D01 RC96 01-8892199

Communion money being spent at the races is completely unacceptable

Children as young as 8 being taken to greyhound tracks on nights out.

Fine Gael Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor has today (Thursday) said that the practice of schools bringing children, some as young as eight years old, to greyhound and horseracing tracks on benefit nights must be eradicated. The Dun Laoghaire Deputy went on to say that while legislation is in place that clearly states that anyone under the age of 18 should not be engaged in betting of any kind, in practice, the reality is very different.

“It has recently been brought to my attention that very young children are being taken to greyhound tracks on nights out which are organised by primary schools and Parents’ Associations as part of benefit and fundraising events. This practice is completely unacceptable and must be immediately dealt with.

“To encourage gambling in children who are young enough to spend their communion money, by taking them to race tracks, is completely irresponsible. Gambling can have a seriously detrimental impact on the lives of adults and young people. What chance do children have if they are being exposed to this practice before they have even reached ten years of age?

“Legislation is already in place to deal with this issue. People under the age of 18 are prohibited from engaging in betting of any kind, however, this is not reflected in reality. It is not unusual to see children of all ages at race tracks across the country placing bets in what is portrayed to them as a fun and harmless setting. This sets a dreadful example and one that should not be tolerated by parents or by the racing establishment.

“For a school or a Parents’ Association to choose a greyhound track as the venue for a night out, which is attended by children, shows a serious lack of judgement. I am calling on all gambling institutions to ensure that the laws that are in place are adhered to, so that we do not see our children of Communion and Confirmation age engaged in a practice that could have devastating consequences for them down the line.”

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