June 25, 2024 3 min read

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APG Publishes Inquiry Report on Gambling-Related Harm

These recent findings underline the need for an urgent update to the region’s gambling legislation as its surrounding jurisdictions record substantial progress

The Northern Ireland Assembly All Party Group (APG) on Reducing Harm Related to Gambling has released a comprehensive report following an extensive inquiry into public health approaches to addressing gambling-related harm in Northern Ireland. The inquiry, running from December 2022 to January 2024, gathered evidence from over 30 witnesses through oral testimonies and received 45 written submissions from individuals and organizations.

The Region Struggles with Outdated Legislation

Gambling regulation in Northern Ireland (NI) falls under the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (NI) Order 1985. Unlike Great Britain, Northern Ireland does not have an independent gambling regulator. Sporadic legislative updates have left NI authorities with insufficient tools to adequately respond to the ever-evolving gambling sector, raising concerns regarding consumers’ well-being.

The newest report summarizes the APG’s findings and presents 57 recommendations for the Northern Ireland Executive, various departments, and the UK Government. It addresses the wide-ranging impacts of gambling on individual and public health, focusing on children and young people, and explores enhanced regulatory approaches from a public health perspective.

Forms of crypto- or quasi-gambling are not defined as gambling by GB legislation and are, therefore, popular and accessible amongst children and young people.

APG report

The evidence overwhelmingly indicates that gambling is a significant public health issue in Northern Ireland, comparable to the challenges posed by alcohol and tobacco. Clinical experts, health professionals, policymakers, researchers, and those with lived experience highlighted a spectrum of harms associated with gambling that extend beyond individuals, affecting families and entire communities.

Urgent Measures Are Imperative to Protect Consumers

The report emphasizes the urgent need for a public health approach to gambling regulation, akin to strategies used for other addictive products. Some of its recommendations include the establishment of an independent regulator to enforce gambling laws, issue licenses, and dispense fines. Furthermore, it advocates for a dedicated and independent gambling ombudsman to replace outdated and ineffective consumer protection mechanisms.

In response to growing problem gambling rates, the report urged the NI Department of Health and the NI Departments of Communities, Education, and Justice to develop and implement a regional strategy to prevent and reduce gambling harms. It added that Regulations should be proportional to the risk associated with different gambling activities with highly addictive products suffering stricter rules.

A critical consideration of any future Gambling Act in NI must be the recognition and regulation of high-risk types of gambling, with the central aim of reducing harm.

APG report

The APG’s inquiry report comes at a pivotal moment for gambling reform in Northern Ireland as the region finds itself in dire need of an updated legal gambling framework to match its neighbors. While adopting the outlined recommendations will be an arduous process, NI must take a decisive step toward safeguarding the long-term well-being of its citizens, particularly its children and young people.

Deyan is an experienced writer, analyst, and seeker of forbidden lore. He has approximate knowledge about many things, which he is always willing to apply when researching and preparing his articles. With a degree in Copy-editing and Proofreading, Deyan is able to ensure that his work writing for GamblingNews is always up to scratch.

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