New Northern Ireland legislation has allowed betting shops and bingo halls in the area to remain open later for the first time on a Sunday. This also implies they are now also allowed to open on Good Friday 2023, thus bringing gambling laws into line with the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
The representative for the majority of betting shops in Northern Ireland, NI Turf Guardians’ Association (NITGA), welcomed the change and described Sunday openings as a positive development, the BBC reported. However, as the change had not been expected until later in the spring, the Association pointed out that many betting shops may not be able to open later.
“The timing of the law coming into force is earlier than anticipated, and it had been expected this would not take place until mid to late May. Preparation is now underway for Sunday opening, which is expected to lead to the creation of up to 20 part-time jobs”, a spokesperson stated, according to the BBC. There are currently around 300 betting shops trading in the country, employing around 1,500 staff.
The legislation is considered to be the biggest change to Northern Ireland’s gambling laws in almost 40 years, with the previous laws contained in the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Northern Ireland) Order, dating back to 1985.
NITGA considers the change will help address a “longstanding anomaly whereby customers were able to place bets online, on a racecourse, or at a bookmaker shop across the border on Sundays, but were unable to go to a bookmaker shop in Northern Ireland. Given that such a significant number of sporting events take place on a Sunday, demand had to be met elsewhere, including through illegal betting in pubs and clubs”.
The Department for Communities confirmed the legislation had been given Royal Assent earlier in the week, having passed through the Stormont Assembly in early March.