Northern Ireland Inches Closer to Gambling Law Reforms


Following the arrival of the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Amendment) Bill to the Northern Ireland Assembly, we now have confirmation that gambling reforms are on the way. After the bill passed the first stage of becoming law, the next steps seem to be clearly defined.

In mid-October, James Browne TD, the Ireland Minister of State for Law Reform, Youth Justice and immigration unveiled the new ‘General Scheme of the Gambling Regulation’ bill. The main aim of this law was the establishment of an independent gambling authority set up to oversee Ireland’s gambling activities and regulations.

The gambling authority will have the power to regulate gambling across various media forms with the main aim being to create a safe environment for the users. It will have the ability to block remote online access to gaming services in the country. If necessary, the authority can also completely shut down some gambling operations. It could go further by freezing payments, assets as well as banking accounts.

Significant Focus on Player Protection

One of the most important parts of the gambling reform bill outlines measures that are geared primarily towards ensuring player protection. The issue of gambling-related harm is still quite a big deal. It is great to see that lawmakers are also pushing for reforms in that regard.

Some of the measures mentioned in the bill include the establishment of a national self-exclusion register. In addition to that, the law prohibits financial institutions from offering credit or even loans to gamblers. While these will not be the ultimate way of completely getting rid of problem gambling, they are a great start.

EGBA Raises a Few Concerns

After the announcement of the new gambling bill, the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) welcomed proposals for the establishment of the gambling authority. The association pointed out how important the bill was especially considering how it could shape the jurisdiction’s gambling sector.

“We welcome the Irish government’s publication of the General Scheme of the Gambling Regulation Bill; this is an important milestone, and it provides companies, including our own members, with some certainty as to the direction of travel of the legislation.”

EGBA secretary general Maarten Haijer.

However, the EGBA raised some concern regarding the part of the bill that outlined plans to introduce a ban on free bets in Ireland. According to the association, this might be a risky move. That is because it is likely to steer consumers who use free bets to site that are not licensed or regulated in Ireland. Hopefully, this will be cleared up within the next 12 months as the legislative process runs its course.

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