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Gambling laws must be taken to ‘another level’ in Northern Ireland

Communities minister Caral Ni Chuilin vowed to bring legislation to the Assembly to better regulate online gambling.

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Sinn Fein’s Caral Ni Chuilin holds a press conference outside Stormont Castle on the way into round table talks in Belfast this afternoon involving both the UK and Irish governments and leaders of the five Executive parties being convened in a bid to find a way to save the Stormont House Agreement they all signed up to last year (Niall Carson/PA)

Sinn Fein’s Caral Ni Chuilin holds a press conference outside Stormont Castle on the way into round table talks in Belfast this afternoon involving both the UK and Irish governments and leaders of the five Executive parties being convened in a bid to find a way to save the Stormont House Agreement they all signed up to last year (Niall Carson/PA)

Sinn Fein’s Caral Ni Chuilin holds a press conference outside Stormont Castle on the way into round table talks in Belfast this afternoon involving both the UK and Irish governments and leaders of the five Executive parties being convened in a bid to find a way to save the Stormont House Agreement they all signed up to last year (Niall Carson/PA)

Efforts to regulate online gambling in Northern Ireland must be taken to another level, a Stormont minister has said.

Communities minister Caral Ni Chuilin said new laws would be brought before the Assembly before the current mandate ends in 2022.

She was asked about the issue by party colleague Philip McGuigan who himself has battled a gambling addiction.

He specifically asked whether the minister had plans to ban so-called withdrawal reversals – where someone withdrawing winnings changes their mind and uses the funds to place more bets.

“We’re certainly looking at legislation around gambling and looking at all those options,” the minister replied.

“What’s happened elsewhere has been almost 10-15 years of work and despite many attempts here we need to take it to another level and certainly online gambling and problem gambling is something that we need to look at to put protections in for people as best we can.

“And we are looking at different stages of legislation, starting in this mandate as soon as possible.”

Mr McGuigan said gambling was also a public health issue and asked whether the minister had been liaising with the health minister on what could be done.

Ms Ni Chuilin said she had met with health minister Robin Swann to discuss a range of issues around addiction.

“Mental health is every executive minister’s business and I just wanted to assure him (Mr McGuigan) of the steps that we’re taking to work together to try and support people who’ve got addiction, families are going through crisis, and basically just to see what else we can do very practically across all our departments.”

PA