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CARE NI welcomes plans to hold new consultation on gambling issues’

30 September 2019

As MPs today (Monday, 30 September) debate a recent report into gambling law in Northern Ireland, CARE NI can also reveal that the Department of Communities is planning on holding a public consultation on ‘gambling issues’ in the near future.

This information was received in a letter from the Department of Communities to CARE NI on September 23, in which the Permanent Secretary, Tracy Mehag, said: “The Department keeps all legislation for which it is responsible under regular review. In 2017, the Department published the results of a further gambling survey undertaken the previous year and it is intended to carry out a further public consultation, to include all stakeholders, on gambling issues in the near future.”

CARE NI wrote to the Department of Communities about the issue of problem gambling after Lord Duncan, Minister in the NI Office, admitted in the House of Lords on 9 September that NI had an ‘extraordinary’ rate of problem gambling.

The debate today in the House of Commons follows the publication of a report into gambling law in NI which highlighted the inadequacy of current laws and the urgent need for reforms.

The Department of Communities’ last major survey in 2017 showed that in comparison to England, the problem gambling rate in NI is four times as prevalent.

According to the letter, the consultation will involve all stakeholders and CARE NI also said the exercise must not be tipped in favour of the gambling industry.

CARE NI Policy Officer, Mark Baillie said:

“We welcome the response from the Department of Communities to our letter and in particular the excellent news that they are planning on holding a public consultation on gambling issues.

“It’s crucial this consultation is wide ranging and focuses on how we can get better information about the scale of problem gambling, as well as reforms to our existing laws.

“As Lord Duncan admitted in the House of Lords just a few weeks ago, we have an extraordinary problem with gambling here in NI.

“While for some gambling is just harmless fun, for a significant minority it causes actual devastation and the effects are felt by individuals, families and whole communities.

“We are calling on MPs to use today’s debate shine a light on the scale of problem gambling here in NI.

“Recent exposure of the flaws in our existing gambling laws is also just another reminder as to why we urgently need Stormont to be restored so our elected representatives can get on with their jobs of deciding on policies to protect vulnerable people, like problem gamblers.

“We look forward to more information from the Department of Communities on this important consultation soon and would only add that it is vital the consultation is not unduly influenced by the gambling industry.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For interview requests or more information please contact James Mildred: james.mildred@care.org.uk // 07717516814

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.

To see a copy of the letter CARE NI received from the Department of Communities, please contact James Mildred on the details above.

In June, CARE NI released research which showed only one out of NI’s five health boards record details on the number of problem gamblers in their area: https://www.care.org.uk/news/latest-news/revealed-alarming-lack-problem-gambling-data-across-ni

Today’s debate in the Commons at Westminster on gambling law in NI follows the publication of a report into gambling in NI which was required under the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act. The report exposed the serious inadequacy of gambling law in NI: https://www.care.org.uk/news/latest-news/press-release-new-report-shows-gambling-law-ni-utterly-inadequate

The schedule for debates on various reports issuing from the Act can be found here: https://calendar.parliament.uk/calendar/Commons/All/2019/9/30/Daily

NI has a higher proportion of problem gamblers than anywhere else in the UK, according to a 2017 survey: https://www.care.org.uk/news/latest-news/new-report-shows-northern-ireland-has-more-four-times-many-problem-gamblers-england

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While for some, gambling is just harmless fun, for a significant minority it causes genuine devastation. Our vision is to see laws passed that will help protect vulnerable problem gamblers.

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