Posted 2/25/11 : Social Development Minister publishes for consultation – reforms of Northern Ireland’s gambling law.
Northern Ireland's Social Development Minister, Alex Attwood seeks to reform gambling laws as current legalization is becoming increasingly out of date due to changes in industry practices and the development of new forms of gambling such as online gaming.
The minister's key reform issues up for review include:
– High stakes gaming – No change proposed.
– Stakes and prizes – Consideration will be given to increasing or removing monetary limits on gambling in line with GB. The aim would be to set limits at reasonable levels to provide some additional revenue for the industry, while discouraging excessive and illegal gaming.
– Sunday gambling – At present bookmaking offices and licensed bingo clubs can not open on Sundays. Minister believes allowing these premises to open on Sundays would reflect a sensible and pragmatic approach which will benefit the local economy.
– Online gambling – Minister is seeking views on introducing a licensing scheme for online providers who wish to establish their operations in Northern Ireland.
– Societies’ lotteries – Views are sought on removing the £1 stake limit for Northern Ireland-based lotteries, doubling limits on lottery proceeds and simplifying rules on expenses.
– Outdated provisions – Suggestions on easing or removing certain gambling restrictions and licensing conditions that have become outdated.
– Keeping crime out – Suggestions are sought on gambling law being underpinned by statutory objectives to keep crime out, protect the vulnerable and promote fairness. The current range of offences and penalties are also under review.
– Regulation and enforcement – Views are sought on the general principle of establishing a single licensing body to grant licences and oversee the activities of the industry. Careful consideration would need to be given to the sharing of enforcement responsibilities with the police.
– Problem gambling – A range of new measures to minimise the adverse impacts of gambling are being proposed. These include imposing a levy on the industry to fund research, education and treatment of problems gamblers and introducing statutory social responsibility codes of conduct for gambling providers.
It will fall to the next administration to make final decisions and promote the necessary legalization. The aim is to produce a flexible legislative framework to meet changing circumstances without the need for frequent amendments of the law.
Alex Attwood said: ‘’My priority will be the public interest; striking a balance between developing gambling as a leisure pursuit and minimising its harmful effects.
‘‘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. I welcome views on creating a single licensing body with new powers to impose penalties on gambling operators for breaches of licensing conditions."