SBC News NI Assembly has no agenda for gambling reforms

NI Assembly has no agenda for gambling reforms

The Assembly of Northern Ireland is unlikely to review any changes to gambling laws, despite bipartisan calls demanding an immediate intervention.

Following Thursday’s General Election, Northern Ireland sees a new Assembly take form in which Sinn Féin will serve as Stormont’s largest party in Westminster.

The election sees a more diversified representation of Northern Ireland at Westminster, despite Sinn Féin taking no seats at the House of Commons. A new assembly is made up of six parties (and one independent) representing the 18 constituencies of the devolved nation.

In 2019, Stormont began its consultation to overhaul gambling laws of the ‘1985 Order on Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements’ – which carried no provisions for online gambling.

Despite the recognition that NI gambling laws were outdated, Stormont saw no progress on the launch of a new gambling regime or amending existing laws to improve protections.

Yesterday, the Department for Communities (DfC) responded to a legislative question on gambling, citing that the proposal for a new Gambling Bill was unlikely to be on the Assembly’s agenda.

DfC Minister Gordon Lyons noted: “It would be impossible for a Bill of the magnitude and complexity required to be drafted and to have made its way through all Assembly scrutiny and legislative processes within the current mandate.”

An inquiry carried out by Stormont’s All-Party Group (APG) on reducing gambling-related harms called for a “complete overhaul” of laws in Northern Ireland. The group cited the findings of its two-year long inquiry examining the treatment of gambling-related harms in Northern Ireland, considering public health, welfare and well-being evidence and factors.

The APG had put forward 57 recommendations, with the headline measure to recognise problem gambling as a public health issue and the appointment of an independent regulator of gambling activities in Northern Ireland.

The group further suggested imposing restrictions on gambling advertisements, such as banning TV gambling ads between 5:30 am and 9:00 pm.

Of concern, campaigners cited that NI’s assembly and authorities did not have an adequate means to measure the impact of problem gambling in Northern Ireland, with accountability lagging behind the UK and other European nations.

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