Some Northern Ireland politicians have addressed their colleagues based in Westminster to seek some guidance at a time when they are rolling out an inquiry that is aimed at establishing a new gambling legislation in the UK province.
The Stormont-based APG on Reducing Harm Related to Gambling that has recently been established, revealed that it is to take guidance from Westminster’s Gambling-Related Harm APPG as its inquiry is in progress, with evidence sessions set to start in September 2020.
According to the Northern Ireland politicians’ group, the proposals that their colleagues from Westminster are expected to make is planned to be used to make the outdated gambling laws of the province more suitable for the current market conditions. The Northern Ireland group praised the efforts of their colleagues in Westminster, who managed to finalise an inquiry that lasted for a year and urged the Government to impose a new £2 maximum stake to be imposed on online slot machines, along with a full ban on gambling advertising practices.
Robbie Butler MLA, who heads the Stormont All-Party Group, said that he and his colleagues believed this was the best timing for the gambling legislation in the region to be updated. He further confirmed that the two groups have been communicating and the Northern Ireland group would be asking Ms Carolyn Harris MP, who chairs the Westminster APG, to testify to their inquiry once it is officially rolled out this autumn.
Stormont APG Aims to Secure Maximum Protection against Gambling-Related Harm
Mr Butler explained that the All-Party Group from Stormont does not aim at banning gambling in the region but at protecting the most vulnerable society members and making Northern Ireland gambling legislation suitable for this purpose. He further noted that the members of the All-Party Group on Reducing Harm Related to Gambling have overcome their political bias and join efforts for the sake of a common purpose. According to Mr Butler, working in collaboration with their Westminster colleagues would be beneficial to the inquiry.
Previously, the report issued by the APPG from Westminster outlined 30 suggestions and called for massive changes in gambling regulation in the UK. As reported by Casino Guardian at the time, the report also stated that the major gambling regulatory body of the country – the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) – is not suitable for the purpose it is supposed to serve.
According to Mr Carolyn Harris, the extremely large gambling industry had destroyed some people’s lives, with the sector proving that it would not self-regulate effectively. The APPG from Westminster had set out more than 30 suggestions to see some reforms in the online gambling sector of the country, with the group’s members insisting that the changes must take effect as soon as possible.
When it comes to the gambling legislation of Northern Ireland, the current Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements Order 1985 is unsuitable to meet the regulatory needs of the existing gambling industry, as no online gambling services are mentioned in it. Consultation on reform of the gambling legislation was given a start in 2019 by the Northern Ireland Department for Communities, with three main objectives set for the sector – ensuring fairness and transparency within the sector, keeping any criminal activity out of gambling and protecting children and vulnerable members of society from possible gambling-related harm.