The article titled ‘Gambling harm ‘underestimated’’ in Thursday’s News Letter highlights well the enormous damage gambling addiction can cause in the lives of individuals, families and communities.
According to 2017 Department for Communities research, NI has the highest problem gambling prevalence rate in the UK, with 2.3% of the adult population here classed as ‘problem gamblers’. This is over four times the equivalent figure in England.
While the article criticises the British Government for only spending less £1.5m on problem gambling prevention, at least some money is spent there on this issue.
Freedom of Information requests have illustrated there is no ringfenced money set aside by NI Executive departments for problem gambling prevention despite the fact we have the highest problem gambling rate in the UK.
Support for individuals suffering from gambling addiction is patchy at best. It is apparent to us that as a society our current legislation and policy is failing individuals vulnerable to problem gambling.
This is an issue which requires urgent consideration by a future Executive, which we hope and pray will return soon.
Real people and families are paying the price with the situation as it currently stands – we can and must do better.
Mark Baillie, public affairs officer, Christian Action Research & Education, Belfast, BT5