NI gambling consultation welcomed by Christian charity

NI gambling consultation welcomed by Christian charity Tracy Meharg, permanent secretary of the Department for Communities. Picture by Mal McCann/IrishNews

A gambling consultation launched by the Northern Irish government has been welcomed by charities who say the current law is “not fit for purpose” and is leading to “suffering”.

Launched by the Department of Communities (DfC) it runs from December 16, 2019 to February 21, 2020 and consults the public and stakeholders as to the effectiveness of current law.

It covers a wide range of issues including casinos, online gambling and research, education and treatment for individuals suffering from problem-gambling.

The Northern Ireland Office has previously said that NI has an “extraordinary” rate of problem gambling which makes the new consultation even more significant, according to Christian charity CARE NI.

Current law

Mark Baillie, CARE NI Policy Officer said: “It is well known problem-gambling can have a devastating impact on individuals and families. It can lead to financial problems, family breakdown and in extreme cases it can even lead individuals to take their own lives.

“The current law is no longer fit for purpose and real people right across our society are suffering as a consequence.

“Northern Ireland has proportionally the highest problem-gambling prevalence within the UK.”

DfC Permanent Secretary Tracy Meharg acknowledged that the industry is an “important employer” and responsible gambling is enjoyed by many.

“However it is very important to recognise that for some people, gambling has the potential to cause considerable harm. Any future changes to the law must balance the interests of the gambling industry with the need for regulation to protect vulnerable people,” Ms Meharg said.

She added there is “no doubt” that current legislation is “outdated” and hasn’t kept pace with industry and technological changes.

Details of the consultation documents can be found at