Betting Sunday: Northern Irish Report Reveals Residents Want to Relax Gambling Laws
Last December, the Northern Irish Department for Communities (DfC) commissioned a public consultation and report on the country’s gambling laws. This week, those results have been published, and it’s clear both the public and politicians want things to change.
Despite being part of the UK, the UK Gambling Commission has no jurisdiction in Northern Ireland. The only gambling legislation it currently holds is from the 1990s – and online casino operators are currently having a bit of a free-for-all with it.
Out of nearly 400 respondents covering individuals and companies, 97% said they thought operators could do more to discourage problem gambling.
Eighty-four percent of them also thought that operators should be paying a percentage of profits into problem gambling prevention or help schemes.
According to local media and politicians, Northern Ireland has the highest rates of problem gambling per population out of all the UK nations.
Meanwhile, only 54% said they thought online casinos should be fully regulated and organized.
Evidently, the Northern Irish public thinks that online gambling operators may be willing to put in new measures without overarching legislation.
A further 63% wanted legal brick-and-mortar casino venues in Northern Ireland.
Because Northern Ireland is a country that has had a highly religiously influenced history, betting shops are traditionally closed on Sundays.
They’re also very restricted compared to the betting shops across the Irish Sea in England and Scotland – even considering the new regulations coming in all the time.
The maximum payout on any gaming machines in Northern Irish betting shops, from roulette or blackjack to slots, is just a tiny £8 ($10.50).
The maximum stake is only 30p compared to £2 in the rest of the UK. A few years ago, the latter number was even higher at around £100 per stake maximum.
Around 60% of respondents wanted those rules to change to match those in the rest of the union, allowing for legal Sunday gambling in Northern Ireland for the first time in decades.
Only 52% of the surveyed people thought that NI should entirely take on the UK’s Gambling Commissions wholesale framework.
Residents may be wary of the delays and political fighting over in neighboring Ireland, where an entirely new gambling regulator was supposed to launch in 2020. However, in September, the Justice Ministry announced a delay lasting until a vague time “next year.”
They may also be looking at the closing of several big-name casinos in the UK market over the past few years, many of which cited increased regulation as part of their reasoning for leaving.
The Department for Communities seems to think that Northern Ireland can forge its own way with gambling laws, although how any potential legislation will work its way through the convoluted, religious, right-dominated Northern Irish Assembly is anyone’s guess.
We’ll keep you updated on the potential Irish gambling markets and how they progress, as well as other gambling stories from all over the world as they develop. Keep checking our pages!