Leading Irish bookmakers, Paddy Power and Boylesports, have announced they will cease offering bets on under-18s sports. This move has been welcomed by the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) after they expressed concern over the practice.

While offering betting on under-18s sports is legal in Ireland, there has been a lot of concern raised recently of the ramifications of the practice. The Institute of Public Health expressed concern that it exposes children to gambling, the former minister for sport, Michael Ring, said he was “appalled” that the legislation had not been updated to prevent the practice and the Department of Justice and Equality recommended a new gambling bill.

Paddy Power has responded to these concerns saying: “We are no longer taking bets on any U-18 or Schools matches in Ireland.”

“We made the decision independently as we understand that some people have concerns about betting being available on U-18 sports; we’ve listened and are happy to respond.”

In 2012, GPA chief executive Dessie Farrell said gambling addiction was “severe and widespread.” A 2014 survey of Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) players showed that up to a quarter of player felt gambling was a problem in the sport. Match fixing was also seen as a potential problem.

The GPA welcomed the move by the Irish bookmakers, saying: “Gambling addiction has been identified as a growing concern for county footballers and hurlers over the past number of years, with 2015 showing the highest growth in numbers presenting with gambling addiction.”

“As well as the immense reputational damage and personal devastation gambling addiction can have on a player and those close to him, the issue poses a very real threat to the reputation of inter-county football and hurling in general if the integrity of the games is compromised.”