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Press Release: New report shows gambling law in NI is utterly inadequate

6 September 2019

A new report from the Northern Ireland Office has exposed the shocking lack of support that currently exists for problem gamblers in NI.

The report, which examines gambling law and policy in NI, was required under the recently passed Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act and there will be a debate on its contents at Westminster this week.

According to the report’s findings, “there are no gambling specific services commissioned by the Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Board and therefore the Board does not hold data regarding the number of people who are seeking treatment for problem gambling.”

Not only is there a total lack of adequate support, the report also shows that “there are no statutory codes of practice in place in NI, nor is there any statutory or voluntary arrangement with the gambling industry requiring any contribution to funding support services for gambling in NI.”

It transpires that the Northern Ireland Turf Guardians Association gives a mere £24,000 a year to one provider of counselling and support for individuals suffering from gambling addiction. This is a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed.

CARE NI previously released research which showed 80% of health trusts in NI do not have any data on the number of problem gamblers in their respective areas, which seriously hinders any attempt to provide proper support.

All of this is taking place in a context where Northern Ireland has proportionally four times as many problem gamblers as in England.

Today (Monday, 9 Sept), CARE NI said it was time for an urgent overhaul of NI’s outdated and backwards gambling laws to ensure they work effectively to reduce gambling related harm.

Peter and Sadie Keogh, whose son Lewis tragically took his own life due to gambling addiction said:

“Failing to act to reform the law on gambling and the support we give to those suffering from gambling addiction can and does have serious consequences.

“We know the heartbreak and pain which gambling addiction can lead to.

“This report once again shows what we have known for a long time – we as a society are badly failing in this area.

“We can and must do better for those suffering from gambling addiction and those who will be affected in the future.”

Councillor John Kyle said:

"This report shows that Northern Ireland is a backwater in terms of gambling regulation and care for problem gamblers.

"Despite having the highest prevalence of problem gambling in these islands, measures to prevent and treat gambling addiction are almost nonexistent.

"Individuals affected by gambling addiction deserve far, far better."

CARE NI Policy Officer, Mark Baillie said:

“This report once again highlights the fact that law and policy around gambling in Northern Ireland is completely inadequate.

“The law we have in this area is no longer fit-for-purpose and is in desperate need of root and branch reform.

“NI is failing individuals who suffer from gambling addiction with serious consequences for individuals, families and communities here.

“Regardless of what the future holds, we earnestly hope for a restored Northern Ireland Executive, because action must be taken to change our law in this area.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For interview requests or more information please contact Mark Baillie: mark.baillie@care.org.uk // 07805813929

Peter and Sadie Keogh now work for Gambling with Lives. Peter is available for interviews: e: ptrkeogh@yahoo.co.uk, m: 07775 700113.

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.

The report into gambling policy and law in NI from the Northern Ireland Office can be read here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploa...

In 2017, The NI Gambling Prevalence survey showed NI has proportionally four times as many problem gamblers as England: https://care.org.uk/news/latest-news/new-report-shows-northern-ireland-h...

In June, CARE NI drew attention to the alarming lack of problem gambling data available in NI: https://www.care.org.uk/news/latest-news/revealed-alarming-lack-problem-...

Mark Baillie wrote the following article on why NI needs gambling law reform: https://www.care.org.uk/news/latest-news/blog-we-must-reform-our-outdate...

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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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