A Christian charity has welcomed news that a leading chain of bookmakers has committed to cutting the maximum stake on its fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in Northern Ireland.
Ladbrokes is reported to have announced the move voluntarily, despite new legislation in Great Britain not being applicable to Northern Ireland.
The UK government recently ruled that the maximum stake on the highly addictive machines should be reduced from £100 to just £2.
The CARE (Christian Action Research and Education) charity has said it welcomes the Ladbrokes decision and has called on other bookmakers to “follow Ladbrokes’ lead”.
Mark Baillie of CARE said the current legal “grey area” governing the use of FOBTs “cannot be used as a reason for inaction”.
Mr Baillie said: “The devastation caused by FOBTs is well-documented and it is of critical importance that action is taken to ensure the maximum stake is reduced on these machines here.
“The idea that the stake would be cut on FOBTs in Britain while still operating at £100 a spin here in Northern Ireland is unacceptable.”
He added: “I would hope other bookmakers will follow Ladbrokes’ lead and take action themselves to reduce the maximum stake.”
Speaking to the Racing Post, Jackie Murphy of Ladbrokes said: “There is no legislation in Northern Ireland but we have to do the right thing so of course we will enact it.
“I don’t think it would be good business for anybody in Northern Ireland if it suddenly became the Las Vegas of the UK and blatantly flouted these changes.
“So we do the right thing by the customers. We are a socially responsible company and that’s what we should do.”