Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has announced plans to deliver the first significant changes to gambling laws here in over 35 years.  

Following a public consultation on the issue, the Minister has proposed a two phased approach in order to progress changes in the current Assembly mandate.

Minister Hargey 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.” 

The first phase will be legislation to deliver tangible 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. 

The legislation will be introduced in the Assembly in the next few weeks. Amongst other matters it 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 will require a much longer timescale and will include a completely new regulatory framework which will regulate online gambling, including gaming machines.

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.


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