Deirdre Hargey calls for Mandatory Code of Practice on gambling venues

Deirdre Hargey, the Northern Ireland Communities Minister, has urged Stormont Assembly ministers to support amendments introduced to the 1985 – Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Amendment) Bill

Hargey has been charged with leading the overhaul of Northern Ireland’s gambling laws, which have remained unchanged for the past 35-years.

This September, Northern Ireland’s assembly approved Hargey’s ‘first phase amendments’ required to update the territory’s land-based gambling laws and consumer protections.

“I am planning to make compliance with the Code a condition of the licence,” Hargey commented. “I am determined to drive up standards in the industry and make operators take greater responsibility for the harm caused to some customers.”

The first phase of amendments will update laws related to operating gambling premises, improving the protection of under-18s, as well as certain relaxations on licensed venue’s operating hours.  

Key changes include new penalties in relation to allowing children to play-or-enter gambling venues, establishing a ‘mandatory code of practice’ for those holding gambling licenses, broadening the definition of cheating by making gambling contracts enforceable by NI laws, removing some restrictions on promotional prize competitions and Permit Bookmakers and Bingo clubs to open on Sundays and Good Friday.

Once adopted, Hargey stated that the amendments will allow NI ministers to introduce a statutory levy on the gambling sector to fund the territory’s ‘safer gambling initiatives’.

Supporting upcoming changes, Hargey has launched a ‘focused consultation’ to define the requirements of the mandatory code of practice that will be imposed on gambling venues.

Hargey confirmed that requirements within the Code will include – a ban on credit card transactions and reverse withdrawals, venue requirements on underage verification and tighter controls FOBTs.