The Assembly's Committee for Communities has published its report on the new Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Amendment) Bill, which will bring about necessary and long-awaited amendments to the existing legislation which has remained largely unchanged since 1985.
Speaking after the publication of the report, the Committee Chairperson, Paula Bradley MLA said:
While the Committee agrees that the new Bill does address a number of anomalies in the existing legislation, we have been very clear from the outset that we would have preferred this legislation to reflect a full and modern replacement of the 1985 Order.
However, amending the existing legislation, to incorporate new regulatory controls to deal with the advent of and ease of access to online gambling, was never going to be an easy task and proved to be impossible within the time remaining in the mandate.
Ms Bradley continued:
The Committee is generally supportive of key elements of the Bill, including the legal enforcement of gambling contracts and the removal of restrictions on promotional prizes and offerings. The majority of the Committee were supportive of allowing bookmakers and bingo halls to operate on Sundays and Good Friday.
Throughout our deliberations, it was important to us all that this legislation would strike the right balance between supporting the industry, while protecting children and enhancing support for those at risk from gambling.
We are therefore pleased that age restrictions regarding access to gaming machines has now been set at 18 and that it will now be an offence for operators to allow minors to play gaming machines. However, we remain concerned that the absence of a regulator' means that there is no clear structure or resource for monitoring and enforcement.
Ms Bradley concluded:
The Committee realises that there is much to learn from the ongoing reviews into gambling in both Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland, the outcomes of which are likely to have an impact on our regulations here. In that context, while not ideal, this Bill is an important and necessary starting point.
Restructuring of gambling legislation in Northern Ireland still has a very long way to go. We are hopeful however, that this Bill will lay the groundwork for a more comprehensive and holistic approach when the Department for Communities introduces the second stage of reforms in the next Assembly mandate.
Notes to Editors:
The Committee Report on the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Amendment) Bill can be accessed here:
The Committee for Communities membership is:
Paula Bradley MLA (Chairperson)
Kellie Armstrong MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Andy Allen MLA
Stephen Dunne MLA
Mark H Durkan MLA
Ciara Ferguson MLA
Paul Frew MLA
ine Murphy MLA
Aisling Reilly MLA
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