Northern Ireland All-Party Group Begin Gambling-Related Harm Inquiry
Northern Ireland’s politicians have begun an inquiry into gambling-related harm in the country. Fifteen members of the Legislative Assembly will explore gambling safety, advertising and public health.
Northern Ireland’s politicians have followed in the footsteps of their Westminster colleagues by initiating an inquiry into the harms caused by gambling. At the launch of a Stormont Inquiry by the All-Party Group (APG) into Reducing Harm to Gambling, the APG showed survey result that indicated that 60% of the general public would support a blanket ad ban on gambling products.
The APG has 15 members from five political parties including the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and Sinn Féin.
The group has invited members of the public, academics, industry bodies and campaign groups to provide written evidence to be considered by the inquiry. The deadline for submission of this evidence has been set at 6 November. The APG will also accept oral evidence from interested parties in a series of sessions that will be held, no dates have been announced for these meetings, but the APG has urged those who intend to contribute to contact the group by 23 October. Once the group considers the written and oral testimonies, the inquiries report will go to the Northern Ireland Executive on the new Gambling Bill.
The survey data that the APG presented was conducted by polling and market research agency Survation and as well as showing that 60% of those questioned supported a blanket ban on advertising, there was also overwhelming support (75%) for the creation of an independent gambling regulator. 62% also wanted to see an end to VIP and free bet promotions.
Just 20% of those who participated in the survey felt that the current rules and regulations protect consumers from gambling-related harm.
In 2010, the Irish Institute for Public Health (IPH) estimated that there were between 28,000 and 40,000 problem gamblers in Ireland. Research conducted for a previous Gambling Control Bill stated that Ireland had been cited as having the highest gross gambling revenue by capita in Europe.
Robbie Butler MLA, the committee chair, stated that to tackle gambling-related harm cohesively and effectively, the group had to put political rivalries aside. Adding that the support for change cuts across all sections of society and this support is increased when people from different political traditions unite to demand reform. Butler laid out the timeframe for the APG, saying:
Over the next few weeks, we will be examining what needs to be done to reduce gambling-related harms, and as part of that process, we will be inviting organisations and individuals to write in with their submissions.– Robbie Butler, APG chair.
The committee vice-chair, Philip McGuigan stated that the current gambling act was “hopelessly out of date” and added that reform was well overdue. He added that gambling-related harm is increasingly being recognised as a serious public health problem around the world and that Northern Ireland needed to treat it as such. McGuigan said the role of the APG was to put measures in place that would help prevent gambling-related harm arising in the first place.