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Major change to NI gambling laws Published Date: 08/06/2021

TLT Solicitors reported Gambling operators in Northern Ireland will face a statutory levy and mandatory code of practice under the first phase of reforms to gambling laws.

Department for Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey, has announced a two phase approach to changing NI’s gambling laws following a consultation in 2020.  Minister Hargey in introducing the changes said:

“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.

“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.

“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.”

Key proposals

The first phase will be legislation to deliver changes in around 17 key areas mainly around premises based gambling including improving protection for children and young people, as well as some relaxations around hours of operation.

These changes, amongst other matters, will;

  • Create new offences in relation to allowing children to play gaming machines;
  • Create powers to impose a statutory levy on gambling operators;
  • Establish a mandatory code of practice for those holding gambling licenses;
  • Broaden the definition of cheating to include attempted cheating;
  • Make gambling contracts enforceable in law;
  • Remove some of the restrictions on promotional prize competitions; and
  • Permit Bookmakers and Bingo clubs to open on Sundays and Good Friday.

Phase two of the reforms will include a completely new regulatory framework which will regulate online gambling.

The Minister also recently announced that she is changing legislation to enable local voluntary groups and clubs to raise vital funds by selling tickets online.