Northern Ireland Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has urged Stormont Assembly ministers to support amendments introduced to the “1985 – Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Amendment) Bill”.
Hargey has been charged with leading the overhaul of Northern Ireland’s gambling laws, which have remained unchanged for the past 35-years.
This September, Northern Ireland’s assembly approved Hargey’s ‘first phase amendments’ required to update the territory’s land-based gambling laws and consumer protections.
The first phase of amendments will update laws related to operating gambling premises, improving the protection of under-18s, as well as certain relaxations on licensed venue’s operating hours. Key changes include:
- New penalties in relation to allowing children to play-or-enter gambling venues
- To establish a ‘mandatory code of practice’ for those holding gambling licenses
- To broaden the definition of cheating by making gambling contracts enforceable by NI laws
- Remove some restrictions on promotional prize competitions; and
- Permit Bookmakers and Bingo clubs to open on Sundays and Good Friday
Once adopted, Hargey stated that the amendments will allow NI ministers to introduce a statutory levy on the gambling sector to fund the territory’s safer gambling initiatives.
Supporting upcoming changes, Hargey has launched a ‘focused consultation’ to define the requirements of the mandatory code of practice that will be imposed on gambling venues.
Hargey confirmed that requirements within the Code will include – a ban on credit card transactions and reverse withdrawals, venue requirements on underage verification and tighter controls FOBTs.
“I am planning to make compliance with the Code a condition of the licence,” Hargey commented.
“I am determined to drive up standards in the industry and make operators take greater responsibility for the harm caused to some customers.”