Northern Ireland Enacts Gambling Bill to Change How Betting is Governed

Northern Ireland has enacted a bill that will bring major changes to the region’s gambling regulations. The so-called Betting, Gaming, Lotteries, and Amusements Bill received royal assent and will address some of the issues of the local market.

The Bill Allows Operators to Remain Open on Sundays

The Bill amends certain parts of Northern Ireland’s gambling law, or, the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements Order 1985. The bill primarily affects retail stores but the local government plans to eventually introduce changes to how online gambling is handled as well.

The new laws will bring changes to how gambling venues are governed, when retail stores are allowed to open, etc. For example, the new bill will allow brick-and-mortar betting stores to remain open on Sundays and even on Good Friday. The venues will still be required to close their doors on Christmas, though.

Although Northern Ireland has vowed to ease up the restrictions on when betting venues can remain open, it has introduced new regulations. Licensed operators will now be subject to a new mandatory tax and will be presented with a code of practice.

Northern Ireland will penalize socially-irresponsible people who allow a minor person to play on a gambling machine. Perpetrators risk fines and up to 6 months in prison.

The People Are Supportive of the Changes

Some of the new changes come in the wake of a consultation from September 2019 where the majority of people (66%) said that they support the lifting of certain restrictions for operators. A significant portion of the respondents added that they believe gambling companies should be allowed to take bets on non-holiday Sundays.

The Betting, Gaming, Lotteries, and Amusements Bill was promoted by communities minister Deirdre Hargey who welcomed the changes. He wants to protect children from being exposed to gambling from a young age and praised the decision to punish those who allow minors to bet.

Hargey added that the bill will also permit certain bodies, such as charities, sports clubs, and other volunteers to increase their ticket prices and thus allow them to fund causes that matter:

“The bill also provides increased opportunities for local charities, sports clubs, and other voluntary groups to raise more money for good causes by increasing the maximum ticket price and simplifying the rules around deduction of expenses that apply to societies’ lotteries.”

Communities minister Deirdre Hargey

Northern Ireland is currently eyeing the prospects of establishing an official gambling regulator to govern casino and betting games in the region. This move mirrors the happenings in its southern counterpart where the establishment of a gambling authority is on the way.

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