According to Deirdre Hargey, the Communication Minister in Northern Ireland, the country will commence a review and update of its gambling legislation in the coming weeks.
The review will see Northern Ireland finally commence the introduction of the pioneer key changes and modifications to its gambling in over thirty years. The legislation update will be in 2 stages and Hargey added that they will introduce the first of 2 legislative updates in the next few weeks and that it will involve the introduction of a statutory levy as well as a compulsory code of practice for operators.
Furthermore, with the new legislation in Northern Ireland, the definition of cheating will also expand to include attempted cheating while it will also be an offense for children to be allowed to use gaming machines. Also included in the new legislation is the relaxation of opening hours for bookmakers as they will now be allowed to open on Good Friday and Sundays. This move was supported by a consultation carried out way back in 2019 whereby 66 percent of the public voted in support.
The above changes, when implemented would be the first of its kind after over three decades, notably in 1985 when Betting, Gaming, Lotteries, and Amusement Order was implemented in Northern Ireland. It is expected that a more comprehensive update will be made to this legislation in the second phase of the update which is also expected to address online gaming – something that is also happening in neighboring Republic of Ireland where new licensing is expected anytime soon!
Statement from Northern Ireland’s Communication Minister
The Communication Minister, Deirdre Hargey stated that:
Gambling legislation has been largely unchanged since the first enactment 35 years ago. She added that gambling regulation has not been up to date with changes in technology and the industry at large, thus the update is long overdue.
Hargey also stated that the result of the consultations they made proved that the public wants some of the legal gambling limitations to be relaxed. However, people also believe that the gambling industry, the government, and other stakeholders have to do much more to combat, control, and prevent problem gambling and gambling problems.
Hargey noted that she is taking a practical approach so that they can deliver the much-needed change within a short time while also ensuring that intricate areas of online gambling and regulations are given the considerations and time they require. Similar to the new development in Northern Ireland, the UK has also introduced a statutory tariff on gambling operators. Responsible gambling charities, YGAM and GambleAware proposed this measure in the UK as a response to the current review of the 2005 Gambling Act by DCMS (Department of Digital Culture, Media and Sports).
Northern Ireland’s Outdated Gambling Legislation
All-Party Group (APG) on Reducing Harm Related to Gambling, a group in Northern Ireland, chaired by Robbie Butler, an Ulster Unionist MLA has described Northern Ireland’s gambling regulation as obsolete. According to Butler, MLAs from several political parties will investigate how they can reform the law while suggesting that the legislation be stricter than in Wales and England.
While speaking to Belfast Live (a local newspaper) Butler stated that:
Although they recognize that gambling can be exciting to many and some others might even see it as a way to socialize, it can have an adverse effect on the well-being and health of an individual and his family.
Butler further stated that one of the group’s first assignments will be to organize an inquiry into how they can best reform the obsolete gambling legislation in Northern Ireland. He added that mobile communication has made everyone have access to online gambling, however, the existing legislation pre-dates the internet and leaves online gambling largely unregulated.
The Northern Ireland Assembly commenced an inquiry into the reduction of gambling-related problems last September in its bid to reform gambling legislation. When the inquiry was launched, research by the All-Party Group on Reducing Harm Related to Gambling showed that 60% of the people support banning all types of gambling advertising.