Northern Ireland moves to radically overhaul legacy gambling laws 

Northern Ireland has warned all gambling businesses and hospitality establishments to prepare for statutory changes to be imposed on the nation’s gambling laws. 

Yesterday, the NI Executive disclosed that communities minister Deirdre Hargey has been appointed to spearhead the biggest overhaul of the province’s gambling laws in over 35-years.

Hargey announced that she would move to implement a ‘two-phased‘ approach to implementing new laws and standards which will be formally sanctioned by the NI Assembly to be enforced in law.

Phase-1 will focus on delivering tangible changes and safeguarding all premises that cater for gambling, in order to protect children and young people as well as providing transparency on operating gambling businesses.

Of note, Hargey disclosed that phase-1 would ‘establish a mandatory code of practice for those holding gambling licenses’, in which ‘gambling contracts would be enforceable by law’.

Furthermore, the NI Assembly seeks to establish the foundation to impose a ‘statutory levy on gambling operators’.

For land-based incumbents, a new regime will permit licensed bookmakers and bingo clubs to open on Sundays and Good Friday, with new laws removing ‘some of the restrictions on promotional prize competitions’.

“Gambling legislation has remained largely unchanged since it was enacted thirty-five years ago.  As a result, gambling regulation here has not kept pace with industry and technological changes. In my view change is long overdue,” Hargey commented.

The NI Executive stated confidence in delivering all objectives of its stage-1 approach, however it warned that phase-2 would require a much longer timescale in which an online gambling regulatory framework will be devised.

“The pragmatic approach I am taking will mean that we deliver some much needed change in the short term, while simultaneously ensuring that complex areas of regulation and online gambling are given the time and consideration they need,” Hargey concluded.

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