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GTI Global Network > News > International
Northern Ireland plans to relax gambling laws

Northern Ireland is now planning to change gambling laws significantly, which could lead the country to host its first-ever casino. In addition, there are 60% of people to allow casinos in Northern Ireland according to the survey. Northern Ireland's Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey announced plans for significant changes in gambling laws, which could lead the country to host its first-ever casino. The news follows a public consultation on the issue which unearthed a thirst for a relaxation of what many consider antiquated laws for the first time in 35 years.

In particular, it found that 60% of those who responded to the consultation supported a rule change to allow casinos in Northern Ireland, according to Matthew Howse, Partner at law firm Eversheds Sutherland in Belfast.

“This undoubtedly marks a general shift in attitudes towards gambling here, as does the support for sports bookmakers and betting shops to open and operate on a Sunday," he said, as reported by Business Live. For years, those with an interest have been freely able to visit ‘online’ casinos despite not being able to visit one in person. This change, if enacted, could however, see the swift opening of the very first casino in Belfast or another location, with various perceived benefits to the wider economy.”

UK casino and bingo operator Rank had previously investigated the possibility of opening a Belfast casino nearly a decade ago, but under Northern Ireland gambling laws it was unable to proceed.

Matthew Howse said that while there is a chance the laws may change, there is likely to be a number of caveats. “The sight of a casino in our towns and cities could come with stipulations, including a requirement for the industry to provide support for those struggling with addiction,” he said. “97% of respondents to the public consultation wanted to see contributions towards ‘funding research, education and treatment’ from those companies who would benefit from the law changes. Although, it is worth noting that across the UK, it is commonplace for operators to agree to such caveats in return for a licence.”

Minister Hargey said she plans to deliver the first significant changes to gambling laws in Northern Ireland and has proposed a two-phased approach in order to progress changes in the current Assembly mandate. “It is clear from our consultation that people are content for some of the existing legal constraints on gambling to be relaxed,” she said. “But they also believe that 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,” the minister concluded. (2021/06/16)

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