Swathes of young people are at risk of gambling addiction across the country given the sheer lack of support mechanisms tackling the issue.
According to Stephen Hughes, Senior Youth worker in Belfast’s St Peter’s Immaculata Youth Centre, gambling addiction among young people is at crisis point as there are currently no provisions for those aged under 18 struggling with the problem.
“It’s the only thing we seem to be getting cross-party support on. It seems that Sinn Féin, DUP, SDLP and UUP are all in favour of limiting gambling opportunities and gambling promotion in the North. It’s been huge – it has even shocked us,” he told The Irish Catholic.
Mr Hughes added that gambling has become so normalised in society that many young people have become unaware of their addictive habits, which can have a gruelling effect on their lives economically and mentally.
His comments come in the wake of recent data from the Department for Communities which reveals that the North of Ireland has a problem gambling prevalence rate four times higher than England. The same research also showed more than two thirds of the population gambled in some form over the previous 12 months.
In the face of this critical situation, Mr Hughes said that in April hundreds of youth workers across the North will begin training in this area to better deal with and help those suffering from gambling addiction.
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