While Northern Ireland is considered to be part of the United Kingdom, this area is a self-governing territory, which implements its own distinct laws. Heaven knows the IRA fought long and hard enough to gain this distinction.
In terms of online gambling legislation and regulation, there was once the idea that an independent licensing authority should be created. However, the idea was soon rejected, due to logistical difficulties. Now Nelson McCausand – Minister of Social Development – Northern Ireland, has announced that new gambling legislation is to be formulated shortly. Apparently the new laws are not expected to affect online gamblers in any drastic way.
The need for new laws has become essential, because as times have changes, the old laws cannot hope to cover all the facets of every gambling portfolio, that is available to the public today. Basically these new laws are for consumer protection, and are focussed at players, and the money they spend being protected.
The EU marketplace as a whole has seen online gambling, as well as games such as poker, surge in popularity. In particular in terms of the game of poker, live events have become just as popular as playing online. Therefore the new Northern Irish laws will be designed to comply with the provisions of the EU, and unlike various EU countries, which have been recently seen taking the law into their own hands, the Northern Irish have no desire to take the EU Commission head on.
The other crucial aspect according to Minister McCausand, is that the original Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements laws were promulgate in 1985, and only dealt with the activities of bingo clubs, gaming machines, and so on. The times, they are a changing, and therefore so too must the laws. Gambling is so much more than mere bingo today, and is available across a wide variety of channels.
He is also keen that their laws should fit with the laws of the EU, and has in fact made it clear that they wish to have strict adherence with EU provisions.
There is also the matter of the Problem Gambling Review, when in 2009, problem gambling numbers were… well… a problem. At the time the review was conducted it revealed that at least 2% of the Northern Irish population, were actually gamblers with problems. This was a highly damaging review, and at the time, although poker was not mentioned per se, online poker operators had something to say. Operators such as Betfair, Paddy Power and Ladbrokes, are highly reputed brands in this industry, and obviously had something strong to say regarding the results of this review.
However, new laws will increase player protection, as well as address specific loopholes that seem to be present in the current gambling system. As EU law is not anti-online gambling, we don’t see any difficulty with new Northern Ireland law. They have absolutely committed themselves to strictly comply with the EU. Regulations and standards in the UK are being extensively studied to ensure a similar model for this independently governed territory.