Legislators in Northern Ireland will introduce new gambling laws over the coming weeks. 

The new laws will come in two separate phases, with the end goal being for existing gambling laws to be overhauled. 

Despite being part of the UK, Northern Irish gambling is not regulated by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). 

Slow changes

In Northern Ireland, gambling – apart from the National Lottery – is regulated under legislation that was introduced in 1985. Since then, however, things have largely remained unchanged. 

The first stage of gambling law implementation will focus on immediate implementation. The legislation will factor in 17 areas. These include doing more to protect children from the dangers of gambling, along with changing some land-based laws. 

Operating hours will also be introduced in the first phase of gambling legislation reforms.

As part of the first phase legislation changes, operators in Northern Ireland will be subject to a mandatory gambling code of practice – plus a gambling levy. Meanwhile, the definition of cheating will be expanded to include attempts to cheat. Moreover, bookmaker shops and bingo halls will be allowed to open on both Sundays and Good Friday.

Longer-term legislation is coming 

The second phase, which focuses on permanent legislative changes, has not yet been put together. 

According to the Department for Communities, this “will require a much longer timescale and will include a completely new regulatory framework which will regulate online gambling, including gaming machines”. 

“Gambling regulation here has not kept pace with industry and technological changes” 

Commenting on the Northern Irish gambling reforms, Communities Minister Deirde Hargey said:

“Gambling legislation has remained largely unchanged since it was enacted 35 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 the 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.”