Northern Ireland political party Sinn Féin has called for the introduction stricter legislation for online gaming to help protect minors and the vulnerable from developing gambling-related problems.
Catherine Kelly (centre of picture), Member of the Legislative Assembly and Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for children and young people, made the plea in response to a new UK Gambling Commission report into young people and gambling.
Kelly criticised Northern Ireland's current gambling legislation in Northern Ireland as being too old and complex. She added that technological developments mean the laws are no longer fit for purpose.
The 2005 Gambling Act that covers the other countries in the UK does not extend to Northern Ireland. Instead, gambling in the country is regulated under the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Northern Ireland) Order 1985.
As it was implemented in 1985, many years before igaming became available in the UK and Northern Ireland, the Order does not include any reference to online or mobile gambling. The Order’s section on young people only refers to people under 18 not being allowed into a licensed office.
“Online gambling has become more accessible for children and young people who can now access gambling online without having to leave their homes,” Kelly said.
“I am concerned at the use of persuasive advertising and promotion on gambling which is undoubtedly attracting more young people to take in betting and gambling.”
Published earlier today (November 21), the UKGC report said around 39% of minors had gambled using their own money during the past 12 year. Findings were based on a survey of 2,865 11 to 16 year-olds in the UK.
The report also found 14% of youngsters had gambled using their own money in the past week. If this rate was consistent across all 11 to 16 year-olds in the UK, it would suggest 450,000 children in the age bracket were gambling.
Kelly also raised concerns about the current verification systems that are in place for online gaming. She noted that that under current legislation people could gamble for up to 72 hours without verifying their identify.
However the UK regulator is already taking action to enhance age verification checks as part of its efforts to ensure that minors cannot access regulated forms of gambling.
The Gambling Commission report found 5% of those surveyed claimed to have spent their own money gambling online in the past year. However, this fell to 1% that said they had done so in the past week.
This also included gambling-style games, such as social casino titles, with 13% saying they had tried these products.
Image: Sinn Féin