Belfast City Council are set to debate plans to ask gambling companies to follow Ladbrokes’ example and cut the maximum stake for Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) across Northern Ireland.
The UK government introduced a statutory instrument in December to cut the maximum stakes from £100 to £2 from April. But while this will apply to FOBTs in England, Scotland and Wales, it does not apply to Northern Ireland, where gambling operations are regulated by the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 and not the Gambling Act 2005. And the fact that there has not been an Executive or Assembly sitting in Northern Ireland since 2017 means that there is no legislative capacity to replicated the UK Parliament’s reform.
But despite the absence of any legal imperative, the GVC Holdings-owned company Ladbrokes announced that it would voluntarily implement the stake cut in its Northern Ireland retail premises, and a motion proposed by Cllr Dr John Kyle of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) to the City Council calls on other betting companies to do the same, as well as offering more support for addicts.
The motion urges the Northern Ireland Department of Health to review the current levels of support for problem gamblers, and to set up a dedicated treatment service.
In 2017, a survey from the Department for Communities showed that problem gambling was four times more prevalent in Northern Ireland than in England, and Kyle’s motion, supported by a Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) councillor aims to prompt the UK government into action.
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