Three of Northern Ireland’s largest betting shop operators have now voluntarily agreed to reduce the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) to £2.
Paddy Power and William Hill have followed Ladbrokes by choosing to match the reduction that is legally required in England, Scotland and Wales from April 1.
While the rest of the UK is bound to bring FOBT maximum stakes down from £100 thanks to legislation passed at the end of 2018, Northern Ireland’s gambling industry is regulated by the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 and not the Gambling Act 2005.
The move by William Hill and Paddy Power was praised by Belfast City councillor John Kyle, who has called on the three other major betting shop operators in Northern Ireland to follow suit.
“I’m delighted to say that in Northern Ireland, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and William Hill have said they will reduce the maximum stake from £100 to £2,” said Kyle.
“It just remains for Sean Graham, McLeans and Toals to follow suit,” he continued. “I would like them to show social responsibility by following the example of Ladbrokes, William Hill and Paddy Power and voluntarily reducing the maximum stake to £2.
“That would be a really responsible move and it would reduce significantly the damage that gambling addiction can do to individuals, families and communities.”
iGamingBusiness.com understands Sean Graham, McLeans and Toals could each commit to reducing the maximum stake by the end of this week.
Both Paddy Power and William Hill confirmed that the change will be in place from April.
“We supported the stake reduction in the UK so think proactively applying it in Northern Ireland is the right thing to do,” a Paddy Power spokesperson told iGamingBusiness.com.
Earlier this month, Belfast City Council passed a motion proposed by Cllr Kyle calling on betting companies operating in Northern Ireland to “follow the decision of Ladbrokes to voluntarily reduce the stakes on FOBT machines in this jurisdiction, in line with the rest of the UK.”
The council has also called on the Department of Health to review the support given to individuals suffering from gambling addiction and called for the creation of a dedicated service to address this addiction. The council is to ask the Department of Health and Department for Communities to meet with an All-Party delegation from Belfast City Council to discuss support for individuals suffering from gambling addiction and the status of FOBTs.
In May 2017, the Department for Communities published a survey, which found a problem gambling prevalence rate of 2.3% in Northern Ireland, a rate over four times higher than in England.
In October 2018, UK Chancellor Philip Hammond said in his Autumn Budget statement that the FOBT maximum stake limit would be effective from October 2019, alongside a 6% increase in Remote Gaming Duty.
However, this led to sports Minister Tracey Crouch resigning in protest at the proposed date, and prompted a cross-party rebellion in the House of Commons to push for implementation in April, forcing the government into a U-turn.