Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

McConville disappointed that new gambling legislation will not apply to NI

News that new gambling legislation recently introduced in the UK will not be extended to Northern Ireland has been criticized by former Crossmaglen Rangers GAA star Oisin McConville.

Having battled a gambling addiction, Oisin says it is “unbelievable” that changes concerning fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in England, Scotland and Wales will not apply here.

Describing the machines as the “crack cocaine” of the gambling industry, he claimed they represent an “avenue to that quick fix”. 

“It is well documented how addictive they are,” he said.

Currently bets of up to £100 can be made every 20 seconds on electronic casino games but the new legislation will see the maximum stake reduced to £2.  However, for the changes to be introduced in Northern Ireland, a decision would have to be taken by a devolved Minister, the Department for Communities (DfC) said.

In the throes of his gambling addiction, Oisin McConville ran up debts of more than £100,000, at one stage losing £10,000 in a single day.  He has since become a trained counsellor and is an active advocate for addiction recovery.

Welcoming the changes he claims would “help in so many ways”, he said: “I think it is a massive step in the fight against compulsive gambling, I am dealing with people who are struggling with gambling issues day in and day out and this is something that will help in so many ways.  It is not piecemeal, it is not ticking a box, it is proper regulation. I think it shows real intent on the part of the government.

Mr McConville says it is “embarrassing” that the new legislation will not apply to Northern Ireland: “There is a huge focus on the issues around gambling…it is so hurtful not only for those with addictions but for those families who are suffering because of it,” he added.