All Party Group welcomes 48-hour Delay Gambling Block from Ulster Bank

The Northern Ireland Assembly All Party Group on Reducing Harm Related to Gambling today (Thursday 26 November) welcomed the commitment from Ulster Bank to introduce a 48-hour Delay gambling block on debit cards.

As restrictions have eased, gambling related spend amongst Ulster Bank and NatWest customers across the UK has started to increase rapidly. Overall gambling related spending is around 32% higher in September 2020 than it was in 2019. Year on year, around 70% of callers to the National Gambling Helpline, operated by GamCare, mention some level of gambling debt or financial hardship

The Northern Ireland Assembly All Party Group on Reducing Harm Related to Gambling today (Thursday 26 November) welcomed the commitment from Ulster Bank to introduce a 48-hour Delay gambling block on debit cards.

As restrictions have eased, gambling related spend amongst Ulster Bank and NatWest customers across the UK has started to increase rapidly. Overall gambling related spending is around 32% higher in September 2020 than it was in 2019. Year on year, around 70% of callers to the National Gambling Helpline, operated by GamCare, mention some level of gambling debt or financial hardship

Northern Ireland has the highest incidence of problem gambling on these islands. In 2016, a Department for Communities survey identified 2.3% of the population as having a gambling problem. This is more than four times higher than that recorded in Britain and almost three times higher than in the Republic of Ireland.

The block means that customers will now have to wait 48 hours before they can make gambling related payments, during which time any attempted transactions will be automatically declined. The block will remain in place indefinitely, unless a customer chooses to remove it, in which case it can be disabled after a 48-hour cooling off period.

APG chair Robbie Butler MLA said: “It’s hugely encouraging to see the banks taking on the issue of gambling harm here in Northern Ireland. We know that we have the highest rates of problem gambling on these islands and that our laws to regulate it are way out of date. We need everyone involved to play their part in keeping our communities safe and that includes, banks, industry, the health service, and us as legislators.”

“Problem gambling is often a hidden addiction. It’s great to have banks taking this seriously because the first place the problem will appear is on their customer’s balance sheet.  We also need gambling operators themselves to be enforcing robust affordability checks so that no one is spending beyond their means, often with disastrous consequences.”

The APG will hold its first oral evidence session today as part of its inquiry into the regulation of gambling in Northern Ireland. Members will here from individuals and families affected by gambling harm, including issues of extreme financial debt and suicide.

The APG inquiry will hear from financial services organisations in the new year and will present a report to the Northern Ireland Executive in the summer.

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