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Failure to update NI gambling laws means they are 'not fit for purpose'

Out-Law News | 01 Aug 2019 | 10:42 am | 1 min. read

Sports clubs and other social organisations in Northern Ireland are being hamstrung in their ability to raise funds because gambling laws have not been updated, a licensing expert has said.

James Griffiths of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, highlighted the issue after a Gaelic football club was forced to cancel a planned raffle set up to help fund new facilities on the advice of the police.

Mayobridge GAC announced that Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) had intervened following a number of complaints raised about the raffle, the draw for which was scheduled to take place on 17 August.

"The committee has recently received notification from the PSNI that there have been a small number of complaints about the draw arising from the antiquated and unsuitable legislation that currently governs this area, and that they will be compelled to open an investigation if the draw were to continue," the club said in a statement on its website. "While we are adamant that the club has at all times acted appropriately, we are saddened to say that we can no longer operate the draw."

Mayobridge GAC said people who had contributed to the raffle would be refunded.

Griffiths James

James Griffiths

Senior Associate

This once again indicates that Northern Ireland’s gambling laws, in place since 1985, are not fit for purpose.

"Our view was that this was a lottery competition with the result that it potentially breached a number of areas of the current legislation," a spokesperson for PSNI said, according to a BBC report. "This has again highlighted that this legislation does not reflect modern society or technology and is in urgent need of update."

Griffiths said that although a review of Northern Ireland's gambling laws was announced by the Northern Irish Executive in January 2013, it never actually happened.

In more recent times, Northern Ireland has been without a functioning devolved administration after the last Northern Ireland Executive collapsed in early 2017. This has further delayed any legislative reforms.

"This episode once again indicates that Northern Ireland’s gambling laws, in place since 1985, are not fit for purpose," Griffiths said. " Whereas new legislation was enacted in England & Wales via the Gambling Act 2005, the law that applies in Northern Ireland continues to disregard major technological and social developments with regard to gambling, not least the advent and proliferation of the internet."

"In 2013 the Executive indicated that new legislation would be brought forward to modernise the Northern Irish legal regime, but that did not happen. As and when an Executive can be re-established, gambling reform remains on its ever-lengthening to-do list. As a consequence, people in Northern Ireland are still left in a position whereby certain promotional prize draws and competitions run by businesses elsewhere in the UK are not opened up to Northern Irish residents, and the Mayobridge GAC situation underlines how many fundraising efforts which involve raffles in Northern Ireland, even if for a charitable or social purposes, are technically unlawful," he said.