Northern Ireland is reshaping its jurisdiction, with the next step being a movement afoot to create an independent gambling regulator.
Key Study Presented
The support has arisen as a result of a Department of Communities consultation on gambling laws between last December and February, which received some 400 responses.
The next steps in Northern Ireland are expected to be announced in “coming weeks.”
The Mobilising Data
Department official Michael McAvera appeared before the Northern Ireland Assembly Stormont's Department for Communities committee last Wednesday to announce 382 responses to the consultation.
The consultation signatures came primarily majority were from individuals, but a near quarter were received from organisations.
McAvera added that nine out of 10 respondents expressed support for a regulatory body for gambling in Northern Ireland, with another three-fifths of respondents indicating the law should be amended to allow casinos to operate in Northern Ireland.
A further two-thirds of respondents supported the relaxation of opening hours for bookmakers, and allowing them to stay open on Sunday at their own discretion; with 97% of respondents maintaining that the industry should be responsible for "funding research, education and treatment" for those with gambling addictions.
In a jurisdiction where casinos are currently illegal since 2014 when then minister Nelson McCausland refused to approve a plan to develop a casino in Belfast, Northern Ireland Committee members were impressed by the number of positive responses.
Dissenting voices to the new study include Legislative Assembly Member MLA Jonathan Buckley, who sits on Norther Ireland's majority Democratic Unionist Party DUP:
"The very fact they're calling for casinos and increased hours in bookmakers is going to cause more harm, because of the actions they're taking, as opposed to addressing the societal harm."
The Protection Imperative
The protection imperative was echoed by other MLAs, who called for specific legislation to protect people as much as possible, with the core focus being addiction.
Publishing the Data
The full details of the consultation findings are set to be published in the coming weeks, prior to the department moving ahead with any legislation.
The comprehensive study seems to have mobilised an otherwise staunchly opposed government in Northern Ireland. Amazing what good constituent data can do.