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Velimir Velichkov December 14, 2022 3 min read
APG Launches Inquiry into Public Health Approach to Tackle Gambling Harm
The All Party Group (APG) on Reducing Harm Related to Gambling in Northern Ireland was created back in March 2020. The group sought to tackle gambling harm and reduce it by advocating for effective changes and launching different inquiries.
APG Announces the Launch of a New Inquiry
On Tuesday, the APG announced the launch of a new inquiry into a public health approach to gambling-related harms in the country. The inquiry is open until Friday 3, 2023 and during this time, the APG will collect submitted written evidence. The public health approach is widely used to tackle other health concerns such as the consumption of alcohol, smoking or even obesity. Pointing to research, the APG claims that the current approach to gambling, which is focused on the “attitudes and behaviors of individuals” cannot determine the impact on public health which makes it less effective.
Ultimately, with the new public health inquiry, the APG asks different experts, academic groups and health professionals to submit their responses. Additionally, the Group called for advocacy group representatives, health professionals and experts with lived experience of gambling, among others to participate in the inquiry and submit written evidence.
Public Health Approach Needed for Gambling, Says APG Chair
According to APG’s chair, Robbie Butler MLA, the call for a public health approach can widen the gap and shift the focus from individuals to tackling gambling harm as a public health issue. He pointed out that this approach is already used for other addictions such as addiction to alcohol, smoking or food.
“A public health approach into gambling-related harm would move the focus from the individual problem gambler to a much broader consideration of the causes of gambling-related harm that can then be located within a wider framework of public health policies.“Robbie Butler MLA, chair of the APG
“One of the key recommendations to emerge from the APG’s first inquiry on the future regulation of gambling was that gambling should be officially recognized as a public health issue,” Butler added. He explained that the APG calls for an effective regulation that focuses on preventing harm, providing treatment and prioritizing health. Butler added that strategies for mental health and suicide prevention should integrate methods for tackling gambling addiction.
“We call on health professionals, advocacy group representatives, academics, departmental officials and those with personal experience, among others, to take part in this inquiry,“added Butler
Establishing of Independent Gambling Regulator Is Needed
Upon launching a previous inquiry, the APG acknowledged it has seen “overwhelming support” for the establishment of an independent regulator. This is because currently, in Northern Ireland, there is no such regulatory body that is in charge of enforcing the gambling regulation and has the authority to implement fines, prosecute operators that breach the rules and revoke their licenses. This is not the case for Britain, where a regulatory body oversees those processes.
At the same time, the APG recalled data from a 2016 Department for Communities survey which found that approximately 2.3% of the population in Northern Ireland is impacted by problem gambling. In contrast, this rate is significantly lower in Ireland, as well as Britain.