Gambling Addiction can destroy families
Monday 25th February 2019
We all know people who enjoy gambling and do so responsibly, however for some in our society gambling can have a deeply detrimental impact. It can destroy families and leave individuals being sucked into crime and even end up in prison.
Northern Ireland has a particular problem with gambling addiction. In 2017, the Department of Communities published research which found that 2.3 per cent of individuals living in Northern Ireland were found to be problem. In England, the equivalent rate problem gambling prevalence rate stands at 0.5 per cent, Scotland 0.7 per cent and Wales 1.1 per cent.
One of the worst offenders are ‘Fixed Odds Betting Terminals’ or FOBTs which are machines found in bookmakers and they allow players to bet up to £100 every twenty seconds on games such as roulette or simulated horse races.
These machines have been proven to be especially problematic for individuals at risk of problem gambling. HM Government has sought to take action to cut the maximum stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals from £100 to £2. From April 1 2019, the stake will fall to £2 instead of £100 in the whole of Great Britain. Due to the lack of an Assembly, this change will not apply here.
I was deeply concerned by the fact this legislation was not going to apply here. So along with my colleague Tom Smith we have now got Council agreement to write to the Department of Communities and the Department of Health highlighting the issue and asking them to take action to support those with this problem. We are also asking for a response from the NI TurfGuardiansAssociation (who represent bookmakers here) as to whether they will advise all bookmakers in NI to follow voluntarily the new legislation in GB.