30/09/2019

Public To Have Their Say On NI Gambling Issues

The people of Northern Ireland are to have their say on local 'gambling issues' in a future consultation, it has emerged.

Christian charity CARE NI revealed details of the consultation after the Department of Communities confirmed it would take place in the "near future".

DfC Permanent Secretary Tracy Mehag told the charity in a letter: "The Department keeps all legislation for which it is responsible under regular review. In 2017, the Department published the results of a further gambling survey undertaken the previous year and it is intended to carry out a further public consultation, to include all stakeholders, on gambling issues in the near future."

The correspondence comes after Lord Duncan, an NI Office Minister, admitted Northern Ireland has an "extraordinary" rate of problem gambling while speaking in the House of Commons.

The Department of Communities' last major survey in 2017 showed that in comparison to England, the problem gambling rate in NI is four times as prevalent.

According to the letter, the consultation will involve all stakeholders. CARE NI has warned the exercise must not be tipped in favour of the gambling industry.
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Policy Officer with the charity, Mark Baillie, said: "We welcome the response from the Department of Communities to our letter and in particular the excellent news that they are planning on holding a public consultation on gambling issues.

"It's crucial this consultation is wide ranging and focuses on how we can get better information about the scale of problem gambling, as well as reforms to our existing laws.

"As Lord Duncan admitted in the House of Lords just a few weeks ago, we have an extraordinary problem with gambling here in NI.

"While for some gambling is just harmless fun, for a significant minority it causes actual devastation and the effects are felt by individuals, families and whole communities.

"We are calling on MPs to use today's debate to shine a light on the scale of problem gambling here in NI.

"Recent exposure of the flaws in our existing gambling laws is also just another reminder as to why we urgently need Stormont to be restored so our elected representatives can get on with their jobs of deciding on policies to protect vulnerable people, like problem gamblers.

"We look forward to more information from the Department of Communities on this important consultation soon and would only add that it is vital the consultation is not unduly influenced by the gambling industry."

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