Northern Ireland begins gambling harm inquiry

The new inquiry will make recommendations to update NI's gambling legislation.
The new inquiry will make recommendations to update NI's gambling legislation.

A survey suggests 60 per cent of the public would support a complete ban on gambling advertising as a part of legislative reform.

UK.- The Northern Ireland Assembly has begun an inquiry into reducing gambling-related harm as it looks to reform gambling legislation.

At the launch of the inquiry, the Stormont assembly’s All-Party Group (APG) on Reducing Harm Related to Gambling revealed research that found 60 per cent of people to be in favour of banning all forms of gambling advertising. 

Conducted by Survation, the survey also found that 80 per cent of respondents thought there should be a limit on how much players can deposit in online gambling accounts.

Only 20% of respondents said they believed that current gambling regulations were effective in protecting players.

The committee conducting Stormont’s inquiry will seek to make proposals for reforming Northern Ireland’s gambling legislation, which has been described as “obsolete” since it predates the existence of the internet.

The inquiry will begin hearing oral evidence in November with members of the APG keen to introduce greater protections for players.

Ulster Unionist MLA Robbie Butler, chair of the APG, said: “Support for change cuts across all sections of society, with people from all political traditions uniting in demanding reform. 

“Over the next few weeks, we will be examining what needs to be done to reduce gambling-related harms and as part of that process we will be inviting organisations and individuals to write in with their submissions.

“We will also be hearing oral evidence from November. Once our report is completed, we will send our recommendations to the Northern Ireland Executive.

“What is already clear is that new regulations should be focused on protecting vulnerable people and their families, putting the consumer first.”

The committee’s vice-chair is Sinn Fein MLA Philip McGuigan, who has spoken publicly about his problem gambling in the past.

He said: “I’ve learned first hand how seriously this can impact a life. Legislation here is hopelessly out of date, but more than that I want to see gambling treated as a public health issue.

“This isn’t about stopping gambling altogether, but companies make most of their money from a very few individuals. It’s about putting protective measures in place, particularly as more young people and women are finding themselves involved.”

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