I rise as chair of the all-party parliamentary group for gambling related harm. The Minister alluded to the fact that legislation in Northern Ireland fails to protect problem gamblers. For example, there is outdated regulation. He mentioned FOBTs and how the gambling companies so “willingly” reduced the stake to £2 from £100, but the law in Northern Ireland would be that the stake could be 25p, which is a considerable difference from what those companies have done out of the goodness of their heart. Online gambling is technically illegal in Northern Ireland, so the online gambling companies are advertising illegally and making vast profits illegally.
Given the Gambling Commission’s reluctance to challenge these companies to make sure that they pay for their misconduct in Northern Ireland, there is something amiss and we need to act to make sure that people in Northern Ireland get the same protections as those in the United Kingdom. Shockingly, no gambling-specific services are currently commissioned by the Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Board, as a result of which there are no data on the number of problem gamblers in Northern Ireland. We used such statistics very effectively in the United Kingdom when tackling the FOBT problems, so may we have some clarity on what more we can do to bring gambling legislation in Northern Ireland into line with that in the UK, so that we can protect gamblers?