All-party Northern Ireland Assembly group has an eye to reform “obsolete” gambling legislation.
UK.- An all-party group of assembly members (MLAs) at the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly is to look at reforming gambling legislation.
The All-Party Group on Reducing Harm Related to Gambling is chaired by Ulster Unionist MLA Robbie Butler, who has described gambling regulation in Northern Ireland as “obsolete”.
He said the group of MLAs from different political parties would investigate how the law could be reformed, and suggested that legislation could be stricter than in England and Wales.
He told local newspaper Belfast Live: “While we recognise that for many gambling can be fun and a way to socialise, it can adversely impact the health and wellbeing of individuals and families.
“One of our first tasks will be to hold an inquiry into how we need to reform Northern Ireland’s obsolete gambling legislation. Mobile communications mean that almost everyone has instant access to online gambling.
“However, this aspect of the industry is largely unregulated as the relevant legislation – the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 – pre-dates the internet.
“It was also drawn-up before the advent of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, regarded by addiction campaigners as the crack cocaine of gambling. Elements of the gambling industry have been quick to exploit new technology. The regulations designed to protect gamblers from harm has not.
“Collectively we want to make sure that new legislation in Northern Ireland is fit for purpose and protects the vulnerable. Gambling addiction doesn’t just cost money, it costs lives.”
Butler suggested reforms to gambling legislation in Northern Ireland could be made stricter than in England and Wales.
He said: “A consultation on gambling law reform closed in February. We want to progress and further this work, not merely by copying legislation in England and Wales, which itself has been criticised for being too weak, but to consider going further if the evidence supports this.”
The all-party group is working with the Christian charity CARE.
The UK support group Gamble Aware recently said problem gamblers in the UK were not accessing the support they needed.