Gambling reforms unlikely to make the agenda in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland began a consultation on gambling reforms in 2019.
Northern Ireland began a consultation on gambling reforms in 2019.

A shortened mandate means gambling reforms will continue to face delays.

UK.- The Department for Communities (DfC) believes that the proposed new Gambling Bill is unlikely to be on the agenda of the new Northern Ireland Assembly. Responding to a legislative question on gambling, DfC minister Gordon Lyons said: “It would be impossible for a Bill of the magnitude and complexity required to be drafted and to have made its way through all Assembly scrutiny and legislative processes within the current mandate.”

Following the UK general election last week, there is a broader representation of Northern Ireland at Westminster with six parties. Sinn Féin is Stormont’s largest party despite not taking seats in the House of Commons.

There have been bipartisan calls for immediate reforms of gambling legislation in Northern Ireland, where online gambling is still not contemplated by existing regulations. A consultation on updates to the 1985 Order on Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements began in 2019, but little progress has been made since.

Last month, the Northern Ireland All Party Group on Reducing Harm Related to Gambling published a report making 57 recommendations. It calls for gambling to be recognised as a public health issue and that a financial levy should be imposed on gambling operators to fund research, education and prevention.

According to the Belfast News Letter, the report says gambling should be treated similarly to alcohol and tobacco. It also backs up existing proposals for the creation of a new independent gambling regulator.

The All Party Group launched an inquiry into approaches to gambling-related harms in December 2022 and called on various stakeholders to give their opinions with a view to informing future policy. In the period to January 2024, it took oral evidence from 30 people and written evidence from 45 individuals and organisations.

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