Northern Ireland Assembly Advances Bill to Overhaul Gambling Regulations

Home » Northern Ireland Assembly Advances Bill to Overhaul Gambling Regulations

Posted on: February 16, 2022, 10:06h. 

Last updated on: February 16, 2022, 10:06h.

Northern Ireland is moving forward with its plans to update its gambling industry. The Northern Ireland Assembly reviewed a sweeping gambling bill this week, moving it to the next stage in the approval process.

Northern Ireland Assembly
The Northern Ireland Assembly in session. The group of lawmakers is discussing, among other things, sweeping changes to gambling laws. (Image: NIA Twitter)

Gambling regulators in countries around the world constantly review rules and regulations to meet the demands of evolving markets. Every now and then, massive changes arrive that alter those markets. The UK, Germany, Italy and others have been undergoing these monumental changes over the past couple of years.

Northern Ireland is in that group, as well. Its Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Amendment) Bill (BGLAB) will provide substantial alterations after it crosses the finish line.

Gambling Law Changes Making Progress

The BGLAB, according to the Northern Ireland Assembly (NIA), has already been through several approval stages. The first was when it was introduced in September of last year.

The Minister for Communities sponsored the bill in hopes of essentially rewriting all of the laws that have been on the books since 1985. The original statues are included in the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Northern Ireland) Order 1985.

The Committee realises that there is much to learn from the ongoing reviews into gambling in both Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland, the outcomes of which are likely to have an impact on our regulations here. In that context, while not ideal, this Bill is an important and necessary starting point,” asserts NIA Committee for Communities chair Paula Bradley MLA.

After progressing through the second and committee stages, the latter of which took place in January, the BGLAB has now passed the “consideration stage.” This occurred yesterday as legislators explored the updated laws, as well as a number of amendments that have been added.

Legislators On Board With Bill’s Language

Legislators recognized a greater public demand for new regulations on gambling, especially in Northern Ireland. They introduced a mandatory Code of Practice and required the betting industry to pay a fee to fund research, education and treatment for problem gambling.

After the bill advanced, the Assembly’s Committee for Communities provided input. It suggested that the Department of Communities conduct a dedicated study on the calculation of a new wagering fee. It also suggests there be research into updated roles and responsibilities of a regulator.

In addition, the legislators noted that many Northern Irish bettors use the same online gambling operators that UK gamblers use. Therefore, any changes to the regulatory system of the UK will have a “significant impact” on Northern Ireland. Because of this, a cohesive approach to update regulations involving multiple jurisdictions will facilitate a smoother integration, according to lawmakers.

One important caveat to the legislation is the permission for betting establishments to open on Sundays and Bank Holidays. This led the Committee to insist that the Department for the Economy publish guidance that will explain the treatment of employees who have to work on these days.

The next stop for the bill is the “further consideration stage” and, then, the final stage. The Assembly has not provided a timeline for when those stages will occur. If the bill makes it through both, it will then become law through Royal Assent.

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