Residents of Northern Ireland believe the country’s current gambling laws should be amended to permit land-based casinos, regulate online gambling, and allow Sunday betting, if the results of a recent survey are anything to go by.
Northern Ireland’s Department for Communities (DfC) launched a public consultation on the regulation of gambling in December 2019 and released the results of said consultation earlier this week.
The consultation was conducted online and drew responses from 382 individuals and organizations. In other words, it cannot really be said that the results of the survey truly represent what the greater public wants when it comes to gambling on the territory of Northern Ireland.
Around 63% of the individuals and organizations that responded to the DfC’s call for views said that they believe the country’s current gambling law should be amended to permit brick-and-mortar casinos. The respondents who voiced their opinion in a personal capacity were more likely to support land-based casinos than those responding on behalf of an organization (70% to 30% respectively).
In a similar manner, 60% of all respondents said they want restrictions prohibiting playing poker, bingo and other “equal chance” games in pubs and clubs to be lifted.
Around 54% of the respondents said they believe Northern Ireland-specific online gambling licensing and regulatory measures should be introduced. The country’s current gambling law does not really include a mechanism that prevents residents from gambling online, which could be a reason for the less enthusiastic support for a new regulatory framework for online gambling.
Nearly two-thirds (around 66%) of all respondents said they believe Northern Ireland should relax the opening hours for betting shops around the country. Almost all respondents supported the opening of betting shops on Sundays, about 60% said they support opening on Good Friday, but only 14% said they favor betting on Christmas.
Overwhelming Support for New Regulator
The survey’s results show strong support for the establishment of a new regulator in Northern Ireland. About 93% of all respondents said they believe a new regulatory body should be formed and tasked with overseeing the local gambling and sports betting industry.
Respondents also agreed almost unanimously (97%) that Northern Ireland’s gambling industry should help fund research, education, and treatment of problem gamblers.
And more than two-thirds of all respondents (around 68%) agreed that the country should amend its gambling regulatory framework in a manner that eliminates the £1 maximum stake cap on society lotteries.
Respondents were also asked to state their opinion on gambling advertising rules. At present, retail betting ads are limited to “hard copy”, but other forms, including broadcasting, are prohibited. Advertising of gaming premises is also banned, excluding bingo and gaming machines in arcades.
About 52% of all respondents said Northern Ireland should align its gambling advertising rules with Great Britain, where these are more relaxed, 27% said that further restrictions should be introduced, while 4% said that the current restrictions should be eased. Only 17% of the respondents said that the current gambling advertising rules are still appropriate and relevant.
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