Fixed-odds betting restrictions won’t apply to Northern Ireland

The maximum stake for fixed-odds betting terminals  will be reduced from �100 to �2 ' but not in Northern Ireland
The maximum stake for fixed-odds betting terminals will be reduced from �100 to �2 ' but not in Northern Ireland

A self-confessed gambling addict has said it is “sad” that a new law to place restrictions on ‘fruit machine’ betting terminals won’t be introduced here.

A Christian advocacy group has also described the fact that gambling legislation in Northern Ireland will soon be out of step with Great Britain as “untenable”.

The UK government has announced that the maximum amount people can stake on fixed-odds betting terminals will be reduced to £2. It said the move will cut the risk of potentially large financial losses from the controversial machines – dubbed the “crack cocaine” of gambling – as well as harm to both players and wider communities.

Gambling is covered by different legislation in Northern Ireland, however, and the Department of Communities at Stormont said that “any proposed changes” would be for “an incoming minister to determine”.

A recovering gambling addict, who asked not to be named, said it was “sad” that betting companies will be able to operate without the same restrictions on fixed-odds terminals.

The man, who is aged in his 30s and works as a cook in a restaurant in Londonderry, said: “I was putting all my wages into fruit machines at one point. I’ve lost close relationships with family and friends because I just couldn’t be trusted with money. My own ma wouldn’t even talk to me.”

The man, who has since stopped gambling thanks to Gamblers Anonymous, added: “I would be in favour of any laws to clamp down. It is far too easy the way it is now. If they’re going to sort it out across the water, they should be able to do it here. It’s sad that we can’t sort it out here.”

Christian charity CARE (Christian Advice, Research and Education), called on “all political parties in Northern Ireland” to “commit to taking action to resolve this issue”.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell said he supports the new law “in principle”.

“When you look at the damage that is done to people, albeit small numbers of people, they are very, very badly affected by it,” he said.

His party colleague, Ian Paisley, said: “This is yet another consequence of Sinn Fein blocking devolved government.”