Deirdre Hargey, Northern Ireland’s Minister for Communities, has presented the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Amendment) Bill to the Northern Ireland Assembly. This marks the first of a seven-step process that must be completed before the amendment expires in 2022.
If passed, the legislation which Hargey first revealed earlier this year, would create new offenses for permitting children to play gaming machines, as well as powers to levy a statutory charge on gambling operators and an obligatory code of conduct for individuals with gambling licenses.
The Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Northern Ireland) Order 1985, the province’s most recent gaming legislation, would be updated by the bill.
The bill, according to Hargey, is the first step in a two-phased approach to gaming law reform, with much more comprehensive legislation to address remaining issues – such as internet gambling regulation – to be introduced during a future mandate.
In an official memorandum published alongside the bill amendment, the Department for Communities stated:
“The overarching objective of the 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 also aims to reinforce existing regulatory safeguards for operators and consumers, as well as young people and others who may be at risk from gambling-related harm.
In the coming days, members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) will discuss and vote on the bill’s general principles before it moves to the committee stage. MLAs debate and vote on the details of the bill, as well as any proposed revisions, before returning it to the Assembly. If it passes, it must then be cleared by the Secretary of State, who will offer it to the Queen for final Royal Assent.