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Council urges bookies here to cut stakes on fixed odd terminals

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Belfast councillors are being asked to back a call for action against controversial fixed odds betting terminals

Belfast councillors are being asked to back a call for action against controversial fixed odds betting terminals

PA Wire/PA Images

Belfast councillors are being asked to back a call for action against controversial fixed odds betting terminals

Belfast councillors are being asked to back a call for action against controversial fixed odds betting terminals.

A motion is to be debated on Monday urging betting companies operating in Northern Ireland to voluntarily reduce the maximum stake from £100 to £2 in line with a recent Westminster decision.

Last year the Government announced a reduction in the stakes on such machines, which have been dubbed the "crack cocaine of gambling".

They allow people to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds on electronic casino games such as roulette.

However, the change in legislation due to come into force in April does not apply locally, in part because the Gambling Act 2005 does not extend across the Irish Sea.

Ladbrokes has voluntarily opted to reduce the stakes on FOBTs in its branches here.

The motion, proposed by the PUP's Dr John Kyle and seconded by the SDLP's Donal Lyons, reads: "This council notes the enormous damage which gambling addiction can cause in the lives of individuals, families and communities."

Acknowledging that action cannot be taken to reduce stakes here due to the lack of ministers at Stormont, the motion continues: "The council calls 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 also calls on the Department of Health to review the support given to individuals suffering from gambling addiction and calls for the creation of a dedicated service to address this addiction.

"The council will ask the Department of Health and Department for Communities to meet with an all-party delegation to discuss support for individuals suffering from gambling addiction and the status of FOBTs."

The Government had originally said that the new laws would come into force in October 2019.

But that led to accusations of a delay, and Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, who advocated for a change in the law, resigned in protest.

Faced with a widening revolt - which included several former ministers - it was decided to bring the change forward to April.

Belfast Telegraph