Gambling Regulations

Oral Answers to Questions — Communities – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 1:00 pm on 13th April 2021.

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Photo of Paul Frew Paul Frew DUP 1:00 pm, 13th April 2021

1. Mr Frew asked the Minister for Communities, following her Department's public consultation on the regulation of gambling that closed on 21 February 2020, for an update on the intended way forward on gambling regulations. (AQO 1849/17-22)

Photo of Deirdre Hargey Deirdre Hargey Sinn Féin

An outcome report on the consultation was published on the departmental website in November 2020. There was overwhelming support for reform of the gambling legislation, and I am on record as saying that that reform is long overdue. Given the scale of reform that is needed, I am keen to bring forward proposals for some regulatory change in this mandate and have advised the Committee for Communities of my intention to do so in the schedule of legislation. As soon as I am in a position to do so, I will make an announcement on the way forward as quickly as possible.

Photo of Paul Frew Paul Frew DUP

Minister, thank you for your answer. Your commitment to legislate in this mandate is really appreciated.

Article 168 of the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 prohibits promotional non-skill prize draws linked to a product. Will the legislation take into consideration the fact that UK-wide companies undertake promotional prize competitions linked to the purchase of a product and that Northern Ireland consumers will be disadvantaged as they will not be involved?

Photo of Deirdre Hargey Deirdre Hargey Sinn Féin

Yes, those issues were picked up on in the ongoing consultation and engagement, and part of that will come forward in changes in the time ahead.

Photo of Robbie Butler Robbie Butler UUP

I welcome the Minister's points. I want to give the Minister the opportunity to join me in wishing our football team the very best of luck tonight as they face Ukraine and try to defend a 2-1 lead and, hopefully, do even better.

Will the Minister's proposals ban the gambling practices that are most likely to cause harm? Is she considering practices such as free bets, free spins, VIP schemes and reverse withdrawal functions?

Photo of Deirdre Hargey Deirdre Hargey Sinn Féin

Yes, all those options are being looked at and their impact considered. I am looking at the health implications and the services around gambling addiction. When the consultation went out, there was a recognition that reform was definitely needed in those areas.

Of course, I wish the team well tonight. Hopefully, they will come home with a victory.

Photo of Karen Mullan Karen Mullan Sinn Féin

Minister, will you support the establishment of an independent gambling regulator?

Photo of Deirdre Hargey Deirdre Hargey Sinn Féin

Yes, I would support that.

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Social Democratic and Labour Party

Can the Minister outline what steps or actions, if any, government here or even elsewhere can take to ensure the tighter regulation of online betting sites?

Photo of Deirdre Hargey Deirdre Hargey Sinn Féin

That issue is being looked at. Obviously, because of the nature of social media and the opportunities for online gambling that are presented to people, it is a growing issue. Of course, we are proactively looking at ways to engage. We are discussing the health impact that it has at the other end. We want any legislation to look at prevention before it gets to the critical point where people need assistance with their addiction. We are in regular engagement on those options and will lay them out in the time ahead, taking into consideration the increasing issue of online gambling.