Earlier this year Alex Attwood MLA, my predecessor as Minister for Social Development, initiated a consultation on gambling legislation in Northern Ireland and this week DSD officials presented the Social Development Committee at Stormont with a summary of the responses.
I was therefore interested to see a news report on North Western Bookmakers. This company was formed in 2008 when Ladbrokes bought the Eastwood's chain of betting shops, merging it with its existing shops. It is the largest chain in Northern Ireland, holding 24% of betting shop licences.
Their turnover in 2010 was £265m, up from £262m in 2009, and they reported a pre-tax profit of £6.4m.
With a turnover of £262m and holding alomst a quarter of the total number of licences, we can estimate that the total amount of money spent on gambling in betting shops in Northern Ireland must be around £1,060m a year, which is something like £600 for every man, woman and child. If we exclude children and those who do not bet at all and if we bear in mind that some people only bet once or twice a year, on something like the Grand National, then it is clear that there are other people who are each spending many thousands of pounds a year in betting shops.