Northern Ireland to introduce gambling reform bill

By Gambling Insider

Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey, has announced that Northern Ireland will look to bring reforms to the country’s gambling laws in the coming weeks.

Once the reforms are introduced to the Assembly, it will be the first time in 35 years that Northern Ireland has made significant changes to its gambling laws.

One of these key changes includes allowing bookmakers to open on Sundays and Good Fridays, and making gambling contracts enforceable by law.

The legislation will also create new offences for allowing children to play gaming machines, impose a statutory levy on gambling operators and remove some restrictions on promotional prize competitions.

Minister Hargey has proposed a two-phased approach to ensure the changes are brought forward efficiently and don’t disrupt the Assembly’s current mandate.

The first phase will look to bring changes in 17 key areas, mainly around land-based gambling; these include protecting children and younger people, and relaxing hours of operation.

Meanwhile, the second phase will require a longer timescale and include a completely new regulatory framework that will regulate online gambling and gaming machines.

The Minister feels  gambling regulation in Northern Ireland has not evolved alongside the technical advancements made in the gambling industry.

Hargey said: “Gambling legislation has remained largely unchanged since it was enacted 35 years ago. As a result, gambling regulation here has not kept pace with industry and technological changes. In my view change is long overdue.

“It is clear from our consultation that people are content for some of the existing legal constraints on gambling to be relaxed.

"But they also believe that government, the gambling industry and others need to do much more to prevent, control and combat problem gambling.”

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