Reform Gambling Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Gambling Industry reform has just made it to the next stage. Only two more stages to go before approval! (Photo by AlemCoksa on Pixabay)

In September 2021, a bill in Northern Ireland seeking to reform its gambling industry was introduced officially in the assembly. The bill was introduced to replace the existing legislation in the country; the original gambling legislation, which has been in effect since 1985. As you know, Northern Ireland technically falls under the UKGC licensing authority, which means it seeks to change this.

The New Bill Set to Move to Next Stage

This new bill introduced in September last year has reached the consideration stage as the Committee for Communities received it for review earlier this week. Some amendments have been added to the bill since it was first introduced such that it is now fit to appear at the consideration stage. The bill will further move to the next stage as the country gets closer to effecting the long-awaited changes in its gambling industry.

The bill is long overdue, especially as so many stakeholders in the gambling industry have been clamouring for a change for some time now. The Betting, Gaming, Lotteries, and Amusements (Amendment) Bill (as the newly proposed bill is called) has been designed particularly to improve the regulatory protections which are currently in place for gambling customers and firms.

According to a previous report by Casino Guardian, the proposed bill seeks to introduce some changes to the existing rules in the Northern Ireland gambling industry. One of these rules includes the suspension of Sunday trading by local operators. The new bill also seeks to ensure that live casino gambling contracts are duly implemented in the sector.

More than half (66%) of the respondents in a survey carried out in 2019 suggested the relaxation of office hours for Irish bookmakers. Most of the respondents also added that bookmakers should be allowed to open on Sundays. These changes and a few others are part of what constitutes the newly proposed bill.

The changes will be enforced in Northern Ireland’s gambling market if the lawmakers approve the bill, and will probably pin onto the UKGC gambling authority’s framework. Furthermore, the proposed bill will also enable the government of Northern Ireland to tax the gambling industry and permit bingo operations to operate without requiring club membership.

No Serious Challenge for The Proposed Gambling Amendment Bill So Far

So far, there has been no serious impediment or challenge against the new gambling amendment bill. The proposed bill is part of more comprehensive and robust gambling reform in Northern Ireland. The lack of a serious challenge for the proposed bill is probably because the existing bill is far overdue for amendment has been in place for over 30 years without any significant upgrades.

Local lawmakers are now ready to introduce new changes to the old law and this will be done in two phases to ensure a smooth transition to the new rules.

Paula Bradley, the Communities Committee Chair, has confirmed the committee’s support for the major features of the proposed bill. This includes the planned legal implementation of gambling contracts. The Chair also pointed out that the Committee is also in support of the plan to remove restrictions regarding promotional prizes and offers. Ms. Bradley further noted that most of the members of the committee backed are solidly in support of the idea of allowing some gambling activities in local bookmakers’ shops on Sundays.

However, the gambling bill did not initially include all the items that the Communities Committee and other stakeholders have asked for including a home-grown strategy targeted at decreasing gambling-related harm. In furtherance of the proposed changes, Deirdre Hargey, the Minister for Communities in Northern Ireland, also backed the idea of establishing a gambling regulatory body as a supplement to the existing police enforcement in the industry.

The proposed bill will now head for further consideration and it will have to go through a few more stages (further consideration stage and final stage) before it will be signed into law via Royal Assent if it receives all the required approvals. Despite all of this, there is currently no announced schedule to complete the entire consideration and final processes that will lead to the bill signing. Find out more about the step-by-step movement of the Northern Ireland gambling industry reform bill from the official Northern Ireland Assembly – Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Amendment) Bill.

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