Gambling ‘a significant public health risk’ in Northern Ireland

You are viewing content from Q Tyrone and Fermanagh 101.2. Would you like to make this your preferred location?
Thousands could be affected by gambling harm here every year

By Rebecca Black (PA)

Gambling should be recognised as a “major public health risk” in Northern Ireland, a new report has recommended.

The Stormont Executive has been urged to treat gambling similarly to alcohol and tobacco with a warning that the whole population is vulnerable to gambling addition and harm.

Recent figures indicate that some 2.3% of the population in Northern Ireland has a gambling problem – a figure that is four times higher than that recorded in Great Britain, and three times higher than the Republic of Ireland.

The new report follows an inquiry carried out by the Northern Ireland All Party Group on Reducing Harm Related to Gambling between December 2022 and January 2024.

It included more than 30 witnesses giving oral evidence across 13 sessions as well as written evidence submitted by 45 individuals and organisations.

The report, launched at Parliament Buildings in Belfast on Monday, includes 57 recommendations.

These include officially recognising gambling as a public health issue in Northern Ireland, a call for an integrated regional public health-focused strategy to prevent and reduce gambling harms; a financial levy on gambling operators to fund research, prevention and treatment; and an independent regulator for gambling.

The report concludes that by recognising gambling as a public health issue and implementing the recommendations, Northern Ireland can set a precedent for effectively ensuring that the long-term wellbeing of individuals and communities is safeguarded.

“The APG calls on the NI Executive, departments, and the UK Government to take decisive action in adopting these measures,” it adds.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Declan Cregan, who has battled a gambling addiction in the past, said it started for him as a “small stake and quite fun”.

“At the age of 16 when I placed my first £1 on a roulette machine winning £7.20, I had no idea what was about to unfold,” he said.

“Fast forward 12 years, I was 28 and full of despair and heartache, my mental health in ruins, suffering with depression and anxiety, low self esteem, suicidal thoughts to name a few.”

Mr Cregan said like most he had not been taught of the potential dangers of gambling.

He said his first bet quickly turned into £500 bets, and blowing his wages within hours, and sometimes minutes.

He said the process of stopping was extremely difficult and paid tribute to his family who supported him. He now works with Gambling with Lives to support others.

“We support today’s report recommendations, especially the focus on gambling as a public health issue,” he said.

“As I have shared today, this is a serious harm that affects all areas of health.

“I really hope decision-makers act on the recommendations and in the meantime we will continue to do what we do to prevent anyone suffering the harm that I and many others went through.”

(left to right) Sinn Fein MLA and Chair of the All Party Group (APG) on Reducing Harm Related to Gambling Philip McGuigan, Communities Minister Gordon Lyons, Derek Webb Founder of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, Health Minister Mike Nesbitt and UUP MLA and Vice-Chair of the All Party Group on Reducing Harm Related to Gambling Robbie Butler during a new gambling report launch at Stormont by the All Party Group at Stormont.

Join the Thank Q Club

Sign up for the Thank Q Club and receive exclusive offers, fun competitions and amazing prizes - it's quick and easy to do!

Sign Up Log In

Listen on the go

Download the Q Radio app to keep listening, wherever you are! It's available on Apple and Android devices.

Download from the App Store Download from Google Play