Issued on behalf of the Board for Social Theology by the Church of Ireland Press Office
Following on from the Minister for Social Development’s recent plans to allow more shopping on Sundays, the Church of Ireland Board for Social Theology is dismayed to hear of his proposals to allow high street gambling on Sundays.
We believe that these plans to treat Sundays, Christmas day and Easter day like any other day of the week1 will be an affront to the majority of people in Northern Ireland who hold this day as of special significance. Furthermore, his plans will not only undermine the importance of Sunday as a family, religious and recreational day but also very likely lead to an increase in problem gambling and the misery it causes families. It is therefore difficult to construe these plans as anything but an attack on family and religious life.
The minister has put forward the notion that more gambling will somehow benefit the local economy. However we would be sceptical that there is good evidence for this. There is evidence from his own department that states that people in Northern Ireland are 4 times more likely to be problem gamblers than in Britain2, where the amount of problem gamblers has risen 25% since gambling laws were liberalised in 20073. If this increase was to be repeated in Northern Ireland it could see the number of problem gamblers rise by around 10,000 in 3 years.4 Furthermore, his own department’s survey shows 67.4% of the public taking an unfavourable attitude to gambling and 61.1% opposing opening bookmakers on a Sunday.5 It is therefore difficult to understand the Minister’s statement that his priority is the public interest and minimising the harmful effects of gambling when the evidence from his own department suggests this proposal will be doing the opposite.
Finally we welcome the Minister’s agreement to meet with us regarding Sunday trading and we would hope to further raise the issue of Sunday gambling at this meeting.
Notes to Editors:
1. Sunday Trading Press Release 13th January 2011
2. The Northern Ireland Gambling Prevalence Survey 2010 identified one in 50 adults as having a gambling problem; almost four times higher than in GB.
3. From 360,000 to 451,000 –an increase of 25.3%
British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2010
4. Current problem gambling prevalence of 2.2% an estimated population of 1.8 m for Northern Ireland in 2010 equals 39,600. A 25% increase on this would be 9,900. Northern Ireland Gambling Prevalence Survey 2010
5. Northern Ireland Gambling Prevalence Survey 2010