Date: 10.07.2024

by Adam Dworak

Northern Ireland Faces Delays in New Gambling Bill Implementation

The Department for Communities (DfC) has indicated that the proposed new Gambling Bill is unlikely to be addressed by the current Northern Ireland Assembly. DfC Minister Gordon Lyons explained that the complexity and magnitude of the bill make it improbable for it to progress through all necessary scrutiny and legislative processes within the current mandate.

Political Context

Following the recent UK general election, Northern Ireland now has a broader representation at Westminster with six parties. Notably, Sinn Féin remains Stormont’s largest party despite not taking seats in the House of Commons. This political landscape influences the legislative priorities and processes within the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Calls for Gambling Legislation Reform

There have been bipartisan calls for immediate reforms to Northern Ireland’s gambling legislation, which currently does not address online gambling. The 1985 Order on Betting, Gaming, Lotteries, and Amusements began undergoing a consultation process in 2019, but progress has been limited since then.

Recommendations from the All Party Group

In a recent report, the Northern Ireland All Party Group on Reducing Harm Related to Gambling made 57 recommendations. The report emphasizes the need to recognize gambling as a public health issue and suggests imposing a financial levy on gambling operators to fund research, education, and prevention efforts.

It also supports the creation of a new independent gambling regulator and advocates treating gambling similarly to alcohol and tobacco in terms of public health measures.

Inquiry into Gambling-Related Harms

The All Party Group launched an inquiry into gambling-related harms in December 2022, seeking input from various stakeholders. By January 2024, the group had gathered oral evidence from 30 individuals and written submissions from 45 people and organizations.

This comprehensive inquiry aims to inform future policy and legislative actions concerning gambling in Northern Ireland.