Northern Ireland Legislation Moving Rapidly Towards Full Scale Reform

Lee R. - June 15, 2021

The Northern Ireland market is about to get a new face after 35 years.

Northern Ireland is moving closer to full regulation with a new reform bill.

New Legislation Announced

The new model was indicated in an announcement from Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey, that Northern Ireland is examining reforms to the country’s gambling laws in the coming weeks.

Next Step in Legislation

These reforms are to be introduced to the Assembly, and when passed will mark the first significant update to Northern Ireland gaming laws in the last 35 years.

Legal Adaptations

The first key updates rumoured to be on the docket is the permission of bookmakers to open on Sunday and Good Fridays, and making gambling contracts enforceable by law.

The legislation will also introduced specific penalties for underage play of gaming machines by children; a so-called “statutory levy” on gambling operators; and removal of restrictions on promotional prize competitions.

Phased Implementation

The adaptation is specifically adaptive, with a gradual approach disclosed by Minister Hargey to take place in two phases to remain cognizant of current mandates in Northern Ireland's extant gambling laws.

First Focus

The first phase will be implemented to address 17 key areas that update land-based gambling directives,with initial focus on protecting youth and expanding permitted hours of operation.

Big Picture Phase

The second phase is a longer term implementation concerned with adapting a fully reformed gambling regulation model to the current environment.

Shift in Policy

The forms represent a big step for the traditionally conservative Northern Ireland region, accustomed to a traditional more conservative approach to legislation.

Hargey called the landmark changes “long overdue” after 35 years of stagnation where Northern Ireland's gambling regulation failed to keep “pace with industry and technological changes.”

Public Agreement

Hargey further confirmed that the people of Northern Ireland have indicated a level of readiness for “the existing legal constraints on gambling to be relaxed.”

Increasing Accountability

Hargey called for the government, the gambling industry and other stakeholders to do “more to prevent, control and combat problem gambling.”


Increasing accountability across all stakeholders in the industry to protect those they will serve at the earliest, most proactive and preventative stage possible protects citizens and keeps operators compliant with not only existing regulation, but any new adaptations or crackdowns which might otherwise be deemed necessary by the local authority.



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