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According to a new poll, the majority of people in Northern Ireland support reforming the country’s gambling laws. The research was carried out by the polling company LucidTalk on behalf of social policy charity CARE NI, which is campaigning for gambling law change.

Northern Ireland’s gambling legislation dates back to 1985 and critics argue it is not in line with the digital age.

According to the Department for Communities’ 2017 research, the north has a problem gambling prevalence rate of 2.3% – more than four times higher than England where it stands at 0.5%. In Scotland, the figure is 0.7% and in Wales 1.1%.

The department held a public consultation last year on the issue, but the final report has not yet been published.

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When polling company LucidTalk asked what best described their position, 92% said maximum stakes and prizes online should be regulated by law, with only 8% saying there should be no limit.

Meanwhile, 90% either strongly support (68%) or support (22%) the idea of a mandatory levy for gambling firms, while just 5% were either strongly opposed or opposed to the idea of the levy. There were 1878 responses to the survey.

Public policy officer Mark Baillie described current laws as “hopelessly out of date and belong to a different era where online gambling didn’t exist.”

“Times have changed and the recent lockdown here in Northern Ireland has only increased the pressure on people with gambling addictions.

“The uncomfortable truth is that Northern Ireland has a real problem with gambling related harms and this means it’s all the more urgent to reform our current laws.

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“This polling very clearly shows doing so would be hugely popular with the general population with the clear majority supportive on stake and prize limits on online games regulated by law and a mandatory levy on betting firms.

“CARE NI responded to the Department of Communities consultation on problem gambling and we look forward to the results being published soon.

“Our politicians must make this issue a priority and address the exploitation of vulnerable people thanks to a poorly regulated gambling industry.”

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