Northern Ireland news

Overwhelming majority in Northern Ireland back gambling law reform

Northern Ireland's gambling legislation dates back to 1985 and critics argue it is not in line with with the digital age

As bookies reopen their doors today, a poll reveals more than 90 per cent of people want online gambling stakes and prizes limited, with almost universal support for betting companies to contribute to addiction treatment.

The research was carried out on behalf of social policy charity CARE NI which is campaigning for gambling law change.

The mainstream Christian charity provides lobbies "to bring Christian insight and experience to matters of public policy and practical caring initiatives".

Northern Ireland's gambling legislation dates back to 1985 and critics argue it is not in line with with the digital age.

READ MORE: Pubs, cafes and hotels reopen in Northern Ireland

According to the Department for Communities' own 2017 research the north has a problem gambling prevalence rate of 2.3 per cent - more than four times higher than England where it stands at 0.5 per cent. In Scotland the figure is 0.7 per cent and in Wales 1.1 per cent.

The department held a public consultation last year on the issue, but the final report has not yet been published.

When polling company LucidTalk asked what best described their position, 92 per cent said maximum stakes and prizes online should be regulated by law, with only eight per cent saying there should be no limit.

Meanwhile, 90 per cent either strongly support (68 per cent) or support (22 per cent) the idea of a mandatory levy for gambling firms, while just five per cent were either strongly opposed or opposed to the idea of the levy.

There were 1,878 responses to the survey.

Public policy officer, Mark Baillie described current laws as 'hopelessly out of date'

It has been suggested such charges are used to fund treatment of those with gambling addictions and for further research into the causes of problem gambling.

CARE NI, which provides the Secretariat to the new All-Party Group on Reducing Harm Related to Gambling at Stormont, today urged the NI Executive to prioritise addressing gambling law reforms.

Public policy officer, Mark Baillie described current laws as "hopelessly out of date and belong to a different era where online gambling didn't exist".

"Times have changed and the recent lockdown here in Northern Ireland has only increased the pressure on people with gambling addictions.

"The uncomfortable truth is that Northern Ireland has a real problem with gambling related harms and this means it’s all the more urgent to reform our current laws.

"This polling very clearly shows doing so would be hugely popular with the general population with the clear majority supportive on stake and prize limits on online games regulated by law and a mandatory levy on betting firms.

"CARE NI responded to the Department of Communities consultation on problem gambling and we look forward to the results being published soon.

"Our politicians must make this issue a priority and address the exploitation of vulnerable people thanks to a poorly regulated gambling industry."

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