Northern Ireland will see a public consultation held by a Stormont department on the extremely large rates of problem gambling.
CARE NI, a Christian charity operating in the region, has provided more information about the proposals at a time when local Members of Parliament are preparing to have a debate on a recent report which has provided more details on the inadequacy of the current gambling legislation in Northern Ireland and highlighted the urgent necessity for reforms.
As reported by the Belfast Telegraph, Mark Baillie, a charity’s police officer, has welcomed the information shared by the Department for Communities (DfC), calling it “excellent news” and saying that the move had reflected the Department’s concerns. According to Mr Baillie, the consultation on the issue should be primarily focused on ways of getting better information about the scale of gambling addiction in Northern Ireland. Making the necessary reforms to the existing legal and regulatory framework should also be considered.
The permanent secretary of the DfC, Tracy Mehard, has previously addressed CARE NI regarding an intention to launch a public consultation on problem gambling rates in the near future. Ms Mehard also promised to make sure all stakeholders would be involved in the consultation and warned that the consultation must not be held in a way that favours the gambling sector.
Northern Ireland Found to Lack Adequate Measures to Tackle Problem Gambling Rates
The public consultation which is to be held on the quickly rising problem gambling rates in Northern Ireland comes a couple of years after the Department for Communities published the results of a major survey into the local gambling industry. At the time, the results of the research showed that gambling addiction rates in the region are four times higher than in England, three times higher in comparison to the ones in Scotland, and two times higher than the problem gambling rates in Wales.
Earlier in September, while speaking in the House of Lords, Lord Duncan, the parliamentary under-secretary of the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) described problem gambling rates here as “extraordinary”. He further noted that he may roll out research in order to find out the actual gambling participation rates in Northern Ireland, as well as the impact that gambling has on local residents and communities.
At the time when the House of Commons examined the existing gambling law and regulatory policy, no gambling specific services were found to be present. The Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Board was found to have failed to commission services which are especially aimed prevent local people from gambling and to help the ones who have already been affected by the harmful habit.
It also became clear that the board does not hold any data about the number of people addressing local authorities and charities to help them deal with their problem gambling behaviour.