Gambling laws in Northern Ireland are about to receive an overhaul. For the first time in decades, the gambling laws will be changed in order to create an industry that reflects today’s environment. Legislators in the country are calling the changes long overdue, with legislation set to be introduced in the coming weeks.

What’s to Come?

The new bill will create several changes in the gambling industry within Northern Ireland. Sports betting operators will be allowed to open on Sundays as well as Good Friday based on the language in the bill. New offenses will be put in place, to try and stop children from playing gaming machines.

A mandatory code of practice will be established to better regulate the operators that hold gambling licensing in the region. The bill will also create powers to put a statutory levy in place on gambling operators.

The definition of cheating will be broadened to include the terms attempted cheating. Gambling contracts will also be made enforceable by law. Restrictions will also be removed via the legislation regarding promotional prize competitions.

Communities Minister Deidre Hargey stated that the reform is long overdue and gambling regulations have not kept up with the industry as well as technology changes. Hargey said:

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

A consultation took place recently regarding gambling laws in 2019 by the Department for Communities. The study found that there was strong support for an independent gambling regulator to be created in Northern Ireland.

The study also showed that officials need to do more when it comes to preventing, controlling, and fighting problem gambling.

Phase One

During the first phase of changes, the region plans to see 17 areas affected. According to Hargey, Phase two will then include a longer timeline as it will include a new regulatory framework. The framework will be created to deal with online gambling regulations, as well as gaming machines.

Local volunteer groups and clubs will also be able to offer ticket sales online to raise much-needed funds. This is another update to the legislation that coincides with the global gambling market.

In late 2020, the Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Act 2019 was implemented in the region, but the measures are only a temporary solution. The new changes will see major amendments to the act and provide a more permanent overhaul of the Irish gambling market. The goal is to provide a modern and sensible approach to licensing and regulation.