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UK News

Christian campaigner's poll reveals 90% of people want gambling reform as NI betting shops reopen

by Tola Mbakwe

A new poll from Christian public policy charity CARE NI has found the majority of people in Northern Ireland support reforming the country's gambling laws.

Ninety-two per cent of respondents said maximum stakes and prizes online should be regulated by law, and 90 per cent strongly support the idea of a mandatory levy for gambling firms.

LucidTalk, the Belfast-based polling company conducted the survey on behalf of CARE NI as betting shops across Northern Ireland re-open on Friday following the coronavirus lockdown. 

The research also revealed widespread support for a mandatory levy on betting companies which would force them to contribute more towards treatment for gambling related harms. 

In total, 90 per cent of 1,878 respondents strongly support the idea of a mandatory levy for gambling firms while 5 per cent were either strongly opposed or opposed to the idea of the levy. 

CARE NI said money raised by the levy could be used to fund treatment of those with gambling addictions and also further research into the causes of problem gambling. 

Northern Ireland's current gambling legislation dates back to 1985 and CARE NI is campaigning for fundamental changes to bring the law into line with the digital age. 

CARE NI's public policy officer, Mark Baillie, said:  "Current gambling laws in Northern Ireland are hopelessly out of date and belong to a different era where online gambling didn't exist. 

"But times have changed and the recent lockdown here in Northern Ireland has only increased the pressure on people with gambling addictions. 

"The uncomfortable truth is that Northern Ireland has a real problem with gambling related harms and this means it's all the more urgent to reform our current laws. 

"This polling very clearly shows doing so would be hugely popular with the general population. with the clear majority supportive on stake and prize limits on online games regulated by law and a mandatory levy on betting firms."

In 2017, the Department for Communities found that Northern Ireland has a problem gambling prevalence rate of 2.3 per cent - more than four times higher than England. The equivalent rate in England is 0.5 per cent, in Scotland is 0.7 per cent and in Wales is 1.1 per cent.

On Thursday the  House of Lords' Select Committee on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry released a new report that recommended all new online games should be reviewed for their potential to cause harm and addiction and their appeal to children before they can be approved for market use.

It also said the Gambling Commission should establish a system for testing all new games against a series of harm indicators, and games which score too highly must not be approved.

Listen to Premier's interview with Mark Ballie here: 

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