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Northern Ireland Lawmakers Advance Gambling Bill, Await Royal Assent

Northern Ireland is getting closer to finalizing a new gambling framework that would allow the country, among other things, to set up a gambling regulatory body that will oversee some of the more contentious points of the industry. The latest breakthrough comes after years of debates and the sinuous legislative road of the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries, and Amusements Bill Amendment which has now almost been signed into law. Most of the progress on the bill was made this year. 

Ireland Settles on Gambling Regulation at Long Last

However, Bill 36/17-22 still needs some way to go before it can greenlight a broader change for the Irish gambling industry, which will include a stricter approach to gambling with credit cards. The latest round of talks marked an important breakthrough as lawmakers agreed on some of the essential and often most contentious rules of the re-regulated industry, including lifting a limit on lottery tickets sales. Previously, a minimum limit of £1 was necessary for a sale to go through. That is roughly $1.30. However, the maximum amount for lottery ticket sales has been set at £100 or $130. 

The industry will significantly improve the way it monitors the industry and how it metes out punishments to wrongdoers. For one, lawmakers plan to significantly increase the penalties that apply to companies that may have allowed underage gambling in their facilities. While underage gambling is illegal in Ireland, this is the first time lawmakers are setting very clear penalties to correspond to the offense. 

Sportsbooks will also have their hours extended and be allowed to work on previously blocked days of the week and the year. This has ruffled some feathers, naturally, with some Northern Ireland Assembly members objecting that allowing sportsbooks to work longer hours put people at risk. Some, such as Communities Committee chair Paula Bradley argued that more needs to be done to ensure that Ireland addresses problem gambling. 

Problem Gambling Could Have Been Addressed Better

According to Bradley, gambling addiction was the second biggest addictive problem in Ireland with 3.5% of the population suffering from it. This rate puts Ireland high on the list of developed countries altogether. The lack of more action on problem gambling was similarly echoed by fellow lawmaker Mark H. Durkan, a Social Democrat. The bill will move forward nevertheless it seems, but more debates may be introduced along with ad-hoc fixes to cover more ground insofar as gambling addiction goes. 

To formalize the bill into law, a Royal Assent would be needed. This should come in the next months as Bill36/17-22 must be operational before the year is out. Meanwhile, the country is already hunting for the head of its new Gambling Authority.