Northern Ireland consults on new gambling laws

Out-Law News | 10 Jan 2020 | 3:51 pm | 1 min. read

Plans to update gambling laws in Northern Ireland have been opened up to consultation.

The Department for Communities (DfC) said it is seeking views on "whether changes are now necessary to ensure Northern Ireland has a more flexible and modern licensing framework capable of responding to the many societal and technical changes which have occurred in the industry".

The consultation, which is open to views until 21 February 2020, addresses a wide range of issues, from the categorisation of gaming machines, the regulation of remote gambling, rules on gambling advertising and the law on promotional prize competitions and draws.

A review of Northern Ireland's gambling laws was announced by the Northern Irish Executive in January 2013, but change never materialised. 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.

"With the existing legislation dating back to 1985, it really fails to address the social and technological realities of gambling in 2020," gambling law expert James Griffiths of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said. "Reform is long overdue, and this renewed consultation exercise is an important first step in reframing Northern Ireland’s laws covering a diverse range of areas such as gambling, gaming, lotteries, prize competitions and advertising."

Tracy Meharg, DfC permanent secretary, said: "I know that the gambling industry is an important employer in Northern Ireland and that gambling is an activity which is enjoyed responsibly by a large number of people. However, it is very important to recognise that for some people, gambling has the potential to cause considerable harm. Any future changes to the law must balance the interests of the gambling industry with the need for regulation to protect vulnerable people."

"There is no doubt that the current legislation is outdated and has not kept pace with industry and technological changes. This consultation will allow everyone with an interest in gambling to share their views on the current legislation and will put the department in a position to offer the best advice to an incoming minister on the future regulatory framework," Meharg said.