Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Amendment) Bill - Call for evidence and views

Closed 26 Nov 2021

Opened 19 Oct 2021

Published responses

View submitted responses where consent has been given to publish the response.


Context of the Bill

It has been reported in recent years that up to 40,000 people in Northern Ireland may have a gambling problem and that is the highest incidence in the UK – four times higher than any other region and also three times higher than the Republic of Ireland.  It has also been reported that children as young as 11 have problems with gambling.  In many jurisdictions, gambling problems are now increasingly being viewed as also being a public health matter.

Public demand has been growing for new regulatory controls on gambling, especially to strengthen protections for the young and other vulnerable members of society. There is evidence that the public is also supportive of legislation which could oblige the gambling industry to help fund research, education and treatment of problem gamblers.

Northern Ireland law in respect of gambling is presently contained in the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 (the 1985 Order). The 1985 Order is broadly modelled on much older law from Great Britain (the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963, the Gaming Act 1968 and the Lotteries and Amusements Act 1976).

The 1985 Order has remained largely unchanged since it was enacted thirty-five years ago. As a result, gambling legislation here has not kept pace with industry and technological changes. As well as being outdated, the current law is complex and inflexible, even with minor amendments requiring changes to primary legislation.

Why your views matter

The Minister advised the Committee in May 2021 that she had completed her consideration of the issues raised in the Department’s consultation on “Regulation of Gambling in Northern Ireland”.

She confirmed that a two stage approach would be adopted, including a medium sized Bill to be brought forward during this mandate (this Bill), with the opportunity for a future Executive to agree a larger and more complex Bill.

The Committee notes that this Bill will unfortunately not establish a full new regulatory framework, but will at least amend parts of the 1985 Order and deal with a number of key issues of concern.

The overarching objective of this Bill is to address a number of specific anomalies with regard to the current regulation of land based betting, gaming, lottery and amusement activities. It is also designed to strengthen existing regulatory protections for operators and consumers as well as young people and those who may be vulnerable to gambling harm.

Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Amendment) Bill - As introduced

Explanatory and Financial Memorandum

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The 1985 Order currently regulates a wide range of betting, gaming, lotteries and amusement activity in Northern Ireland. This includes: - betting in bookmaking offices and on tracks; the use, supply and maintenance of gaming machines; gaming in bingo clubs; small scale amusements with prizes; and lotteries other than the National Lottery.

The 1985 Order also sets out the procedures for the licensing and certification of betting, gaming, lottery and amusement activities and the offences and penalties for breaches of associated licensing and other conditions. The courts and district councils license and certify most of these activities. The Department is responsible for issuing track-betting licences. Responsibility for enforcement of gambling law lies with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

The 1985 Order is silent in relation to the regulation of remote (online) gambling.  On-line advertising of gambling products and services is regulated under the 2014 Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act. This allows an online gambling operator to advertise to consumers here provided they hold the appropriate GB Gambling Commission licence and comply with its codes of practice (broadcast advertising is primarily a reserved matter).

What happens next

Following the closure of this call for evidence and views the Committee wll commence oral evidence sessions and will consider all written and oral evidence before moving to deliberate on the Clauses of the Bill. 

Responses to this call for evidence will be published in accordance with Northern Ireland Assembly protocols.