Councilors from Northern Ireland are concerned about gambling addicts and want dedicated services for people suffering from gambling-related issues. They have also called on bookies to reduce the maximum stakes on fixed odds betting terminals. The Member of Ads and North down Borough Council recently passed a motion where they asked the Department of Health (DOH) to review the support given to gambling addicts.
The motion was tabled by DUP councilor Peter Martin and is similar to the fixed odds terminals motion brought in the Belfast City Council earlier this year. Martin said that he is happy to have brought the motion to the Council. He also noted that problem gambling is prevalent in the society which is causing damage to families as well as vulnerable adults and children. Martin hopes that the debate on this issue and the actions resulting thereof will help in increasing support for problem gamblers in Northern Ireland.
Northern Island’s problem gambling issues are more prevalent than England. Data from the Department of Communities, Northern Ireland, shows that problem gambling is four times higher in the region than England. It also suggests that over two-thirds of the popular here has engaged in some form of gambling in the past year.
The motion forwarded by Martin notes that the British government’s decision to limit maximum stakes on FOBTs don’t apply to Northern Ireland. Belfast City Council came out with a similar motion after which betting operators including Paddy Power Betfair, Ladbrokes, William Hill, etc. voluntarily agreed to reduce the stakes on these terminals in April.
FOBTs have been called the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’ and known to be highly addictive. It allows gamblers to bet 100 pounds on the machine every 20 seconds. However, the limit will now be reduced to 2 pounds. Problem gamblers are especially vulnerable to these machines as they face issues related to debt, crime, mental health problems, family problems, and even suicide.
Mark Baillie, Policy Office of Northern Ireland said that problem gambling is a big issue in the region and the lack of supporting this popular receives is very worrying. He said that the British government had taken steps against the FOBTs, but Northern Ireland will have to depend on gambling operators’ voluntary measures only.
He also mentioned that Council debates have a huge impact, referring to the voluntary reduction in maximum stakes in Belfast after a similar motion. He also hopes operators will follow in Belfast’s footsteps. However, he noted that two councils could not achieve much. Therefore, the assembly needs to get back in session.