Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan says "it is critical that gambling laws now are as robust as they need to be"
SDLP Social Justice spokesperson Mark H Durkan has welcomed legislation to update gambling laws in the North.
However, Mr Durkan noted his disappointment that the Bill as it currently stands fails to protect people vulnerable to gambling related harm.
He has demanded regulation both North and South to protect 80,000 problem gamblers.
Speaking ahead of the Second Stage of the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Amendment) Bill, the Foyle MLA said: “Gambling addiction has been a scourge within our communities.
“It has destroyed individuals and their families with its far-reaching implications – not just the financial impact but the toll this addiction has on people’s mental health, wellbeing and the hold it can take over lives.
“While I welcome steps taken to address gambling related harm within the gambling legislation, it’s clear that it falls short of what is needed and does little to protect vulnerable people here.
“The North has the highest rates of problem gamblers across the islands – it is critical that gambling laws now are as robust as they need to be.”
Mr Durkan also hit out at Sinn Féin for not pushing the same line in the North as they have done in the Republic.
He added: “This issue is not isolated to the North but rather is a problem for the whole of this island.
“I note with interest that Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey's own party has contributed to a similar debate in the Dáil calling for all the bells and whistles we would like to have seen within this legislation in a 26 counties ‘Gambling Strategy’: a gambling regulator, online regulation and self-exclusion regulation.
“My question is, why has Minister Hargey opted to deviate from Sinn Féin policy here in the North? Surely, we should be pushing for an all-island strategy. We desperately need regulation both North and South.
“The Minister and by extension the Executive cannot run the risk of missing the opportunity now to implement a fit for purpose gambling strategy when given the chance.”
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