Report shows 'shocking lack of support for gambling addicts'
THE "completely inadequate" support for problem gamblers in Northern Ireland has been highlighted by a new report, a charity has said.
The report into gambling policy and law, produced by the Northern Ireland Office, is to be debated at Westminster this week.
It shows there are no services commissioned by the Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Board and the board does not hold data on the number of people seeking treatment for problem gambling.
It also reveals there are no statutory codes of practice in Northern Ireland or any arrangement with the gambling industry for contribution to fund support services.
Christian Action Research and Education (CARE) NI policy officer Mark Baillie said the law "is no longer fit-for purpose and is in desperate need of root-and-branch reform".
"Northern Ireland is failing individuals who suffer from gambling addiction with serious consequences for individuals, families and communities here," he said.
"Regardless of what the future holds, we earnestly hope for a restored Northern Ireland Executive, because action must be taken to change our law in this area."
The charity released research which showed 80 per cent of health trusts in Northern Ireland do not have any data on the number of problem gamblers in their respective areas which, it claims, seriously hinders any attempts to provide proper support.
"All of this is taking place in a context where Northern Ireland has proportionally four times as many problem gamblers as in England," a spokesperson said.
Co Fermanagh couple Peter and Sadie Keogh, whose son Lewis took his own life due to gambling addiction, said failing to reform the law on gambling and to support those suffering from gambling addiction can and does have serious consequences.
Their 34-year-old son had been living in Leeds with a good job, a company car and lots of friends, but unbeknown to his family he was battling a secret gambling addict.
His parents now work for Gambling with Lives, a charity set up by the families and friends of young men who have taken their lives as a direct result of gambling.
"We know the heartbreak and pain which gambling addiction can lead to," they said. " This report once again shows what we have known for a long time – we as a society are badly failing in this area.
"We can and must do better for those suffering from gambling addiction and those who will be affected in the future."
Belfast City PUP councillor John Kyle said the report shows Northern Ireland is a backwater in terms of gambling regulation and care for problem gamblers.
"Despite having the highest prevalence of problem gambling in these islands, measures to prevent and treat gambling addiction are almost non-existent," he said.
"Individuals affected by gambling addiction deserve far, far better."