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News that two major Northern Irish bookmakers have become the latest operators to voluntarily cut their maximum stake for fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) to £2 has been described by a Christian charity as "fantastic".
McLeans and Toals are members of trade group Northern Ireland Turf Guardians' Association (NITGA), which has recommended operators should follow the rest of the UK in reducing the amount that can be wagered on the machines by 1st April, 2019.
William Hill, Paddy Power and Coral have also agreed to reduce the stake on FOBTs from £100 to just £2 from April in Northern Ireland.
Mark Baillie, CARE in Northern Ireland's policy officer said of the news: "This is fantastic news and credit should be given to Councillor Kyle for taking up this vital issue and to the bookies for proactive action.
"FOBTs cause genuine social devastation and the toxic combination they offer of high speed play and a high maximum stake means punters can lose thousands far too easily.
"With the British Government cutting the stake over there, it was vital bookies took action to bring NI into line with the rest of the UK.
"The fact that FOBTs operate in a legal grey area meant the onus was with the bookies to do something to address the absurdly high maximum stake here.
"The fact they have done so is great news for problem gamblers and their families all across Northern Ireland.
"Let's hope this is the start of further action to provide support and help to those addicted to gambling."
While the rest of the UK is bound to bring FOBT maximum stakes down to £2 because of legislation passed at the end of 2018, Northern Ireland isn't.
The country's gambling industry is regulated by the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 and not the Gambling Act 2005.
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