Politicians in Northern Ireland are in intense discussions in closed door meetings debating the best ways to modify the current gambling laws to be closer to the UK gambling model. Under proposed modifications bookmakers will be allowed to stay open on Sundays and prizes and stakes could increase. These changes will bring the province’s regulations up to date with current British gambling laws.
There is also a plan to implement new measures meant to promote responsible gambling and to fight compulsive gambling. Such measures could include a tax on the industry which will be used to sponsor new research projects on better ways to prevent compulsive gambling and on education programs to curtail illegal underage gambling.
Alex Attwood, Social Development Minister, commented: “The current regulatory system is fragmented. Close supervision of the industry is needed to keep crime out of gambling, protect the vulnerable and promote fairness.”
New developments in the gaming industry such as internet betting had a serious effect on the outdated, inelastic current laws, which have no provisions about ways of dealing with online and mobile casinos. Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Northern Ireland) Act, which currently is that last gambling legislature in the country, dates back to 1985. Nearly everyone agrees that the time is right for a new and more comprehensive gambling framework to be approved which will streamline regulations closer in line with UK.
Today in Northern Ireland, sportsbooks and licensed bingo clubs cannot open on Sundays. Citizens living in other parts of the country are free to bet on sports in UK on Sunday, or any other day of the year. This is the main campaign promise of the dominant political party as well as the goal of casino, sportsbook and poker room operators in Northern Ireland.
Currently the proposed change in legislation is only in the initial stages. It recently suffered a blow when a recent survey indicated that over 75% of adults in Ulster gambled at some extent during the past year. Such a high rate of of gambling is sure to create opposition to allowing wagers to be placed on Sunday. Nevertheless, industry leaders are hoping the changed act will make its way through parliament and will increase profits to makeup for losses the Northern Ireland gambling industry suffered during the past recession.