“No comment to make”
A Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) politician is reported to have received a £1,000 ($1,300) gift from a bookmaker despite criticising the industry.
However, Ian Paisley, MP for North Antrim, has refused to issue a comment on the matter, reports News Letter. The report notes that Paisley accepted two Premier League football tickets from William Hill, a London-based bookmaker, last month.
The gift came to light as an entry in the Commons’ register of Members’ financial interests.
Notably, though, last May, the DUP MP had made a statement on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in which he said they were “a plague on many families.” He added that “online gambling addiction is the real problem,” and that people are “bombarded with encouragement to gamble online.”
When he was contacted by News Letter to ask why he accepted the two tickets, he said: “I’ve really no comment to make.”
News Letter also pointed out that last May Paisley used £2,700 ($3,500) worth of travel and hospitality provided by the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel.
According to the Commons’ register, this group’s address is listed as c/o Oasis Retail Services Ltd, Newtownabbey. Oasis claims it is the “premier supplier of gaming and betting machines to licensed betting offices in Northern Ireland.”
It remains to be seen what impact, if any, these disclosures will have on the DUP MP and whether any future comments on attempts to clampdown on betting will have produce a belief to his words on those he’s speaking to.
In a report from last October, the chair of the Irish Fine Gael parliamentary party, said that politicians should stop taking selfies placing a bet on themselves winning an election.
At the time, Martin Heydon said: “This needs to be stopped, just like where we stopped taking visiting dignitaries straight to the pub for a pint. That kind of culture change is important and an independent office will bring that about.”
Heydon also called for the regulation of online games, which can be viewed by children as young as 10. More recently, calls have been made to tackle the issue of problem gambling, with the industry becoming normalized for young children.
For instance, in February it was reported that one in 10 children in Ireland are gambling underage, whereas a survey from the UK highlighted that 59% of students have gambled to supplement their student loans.
Gambling today, with easy access to mobile phones and the internet, is a simple process of placing a bet on something without anyone knowing.
The negative impact this can have on people’s lives can lead to families falling apart, relationship breakdown, and gamblers left with a bill that they can’t afford to repay.
Measures are, however, now being put into place. From May in the UK, gamblers will have to face new strict age and ID checks before they can place a bet. This is part of a new self-exclusion scheme for online gamblers.
The scheme, Gamstop, has already seen 60,000 people sign up. Come May operators will be required by law to have these names removed from their systems in order to maintain their licenses.
It’s a step in the right direction, but is an area that needs more work to tackle this growing problem.