Belfast City Council revealed that it is to discuss a motion focused on controversial fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
The motion is set to be presented to the council on Monday, January 7th. It is expected to urge the gambling firms operating in the province to voluntarily cut the maximum stake of the machines, which have been regarded to as one of the greatest evils in the British gambling sector, from £100 to £2 in line with the decision which the UK Government announced several months ago.
The Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) rolled out the official decision about FOBT maximum stake reduction in May 2018. The change in the country’s gambling legislation is expected to come into force in April but it does not apply to Northern Ireland because the Gambling Act 2005 does not affect territories across the Irish Sea.
Research commissioned by the Department for Communities in May 2017 found that the problem gambling prevalence rate in Northern Ireland amounted to 2.3% at the time of the survey, with the figure being more than four times higher than the same rate measured in England. As a result, one of the largest local gambling operators – Ladbrokes – has voluntarily decided to cut the FOBT stake in its shops situated in Northern Ireland.
Now, the Belfast City Council is set to ask the rest of the gambling operators in the region to do the same.
Motion to Be Presented to the Council on January 7th
According to the motion which is expected to be presented to the Council in a few days, gambling addiction could cause enormous damage to the lives of local people and communities.
It was the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) councillor Dr John Kyle who initially proposed the motion, with the latter being backed by the Social Democratic and Labour Party councillor Donal Lyons. The motion, however, notes that no effective action can be taken in terms of FOBT maximum stake reduction here because of the lack of ministers at Stormont.
That is the reason why Belfast City Council calls on all gambling companies which operate in Northern Ireland to voluntarily join Ladbrokes and also slash the maximum stakes currently allowed on the controversial jurisdiction, and in line with the UK Government’s decision. Furthermore, the council is to also turn to the Department of Health for further support to be given to individuals suffering from problem gambling. It is also willing to see a dedicated service set to help gambling addicts.
Apart from that, the Council is set to ask the Department of Health and Department for Communities to attend an all-party delegation meeting in order to discuss possible support that could be provided to people who are dealing with the negative impact of gambling on their lives.
For some time now, anti-gambling campaigners in Northern Ireland have spoken explicitly about gambling-related harm and the devastating effects it could have on addicts’ lives. Public figures such as the professional athletes Kyle Lafferty and Paddy Barnes also opened up about their experience with gambling and warned about the dangers of compulsive gambling.