Today it was revealed that some of the UK’s largest gambling firms will increase the amount they give to tackle problem gambling, but Northern Ireland is highly likely to miss out.
That’s despite there being four times as many problem gamblers in Northern Ireland than in England.
William Hill, Coral Ladbroke, Betfair Paddy Power, Skybet and Bet 365 have all offered to increase the voluntary levy on their gambling profits.
Bookmakers have a voluntary arrangement to give 0.1% of their profits to help fund research and treatment for problem gambling.
This deal with the Gambling Commission recommends giving the donations to GambleAware, a charity dedicated to helping problem gamblers.
But in a letter sent earlier this year to Belfast City Councillor John Kyle, GambleAware confirmed that it does not operate in Northern Ireland, meaning that unless alternative arrangements are made, unlike Great Britain, NI will miss out on extra money to fund problem gambling research and treatment.
CARE in Northern Ireland Policy Officer, Mark Baillie said:
“It’s no bad thing that bookies are prepared to give more money to help tackle problem gambling but sadly, it looks like Northern Ireland won’t see a penny of that.
“We have four times as many problem gamblers here than in England and so it seems obvious it should be a priority.
“There’s little doubt we need the extra money because getting access to treatment for problem gambling in NI is linked to what financial resources you have.
“What we need is for the bookies to commit to making sure some of the money they’re offering does go towards Northern Ireland.
“In our view, reform of our gambling legislation is badly needed because the current laws are not fit for purpose.
“Any such legislation should include a mandatory levy on gambling profits made in Northern Ireland to ensure those who suffer from gambling addiction can be effectively supported.
"While some bookmakers in NI may contribute financially to supporting some suffering from gambling addiction, there is no transparency as to how much money is involved and there is no consistency in support right across NI.”
Notes to editors:
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CARE is a well-established mainstream Christian charity providing resources and helping to bring Christian insight and experience to matters of public policy and practical caring initiatives. CARE is represented in the UK Parliaments and Assemblies.
For more on the story, see here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48690743
In this piece, CARE in NI’s Mark Baillie explains why gambling laws in NI need to be updated: https://www.care.org.uk/news/latest-news/blog-we-must-reform-our-outdated-gambling-laws
In May 2017, the Department for Communities published a survey which found a problem gambling prevalence rate of 2.3% in NI, four times higher than in England: https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/communities/2016-ni-gambling-prevalence-survey-main-report.pdf