It’s a Sunday down the Bookies from May

The wait continues for the announcements on what the UK Government have planned for the gambling industry. However, in Northern Ireland, they have already been making a few changes and it is good news for those who fancy popping down the bookies on Sundays.

The Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements Bill has just been passed. It modifies some of the rules set down 37 years ago and is the first step in creating a more regulated gambling industry in the country.

Those who like going to the bookies and/or bingo halls will be pleased with one of the changes announced. They will be able to open on Sundays and Good Friday. Only on Christmas Day will they not be open.

The timing of the announcement has surprised those who run bingo halls and bookmakers. The bill had been unable to pass all the required stages before the end of the current mandate period in March.

It was believed this would cause the kind of delay seen with the UK governments plans. That’s not been the case though and the bill received its Royal Assent on Tuesday April 26
May 1 sees the opening of bingo halls and bookies on a Sunday begin. It’s unclear whether the owners of such establishments had enough time to get everything in place to open. It looks as if the rest of May will be a landmark one for them.

The move will create some staffing problems and new members of staff may need to be recruited for bookmaker shops and bingo halls. Already there is talk of expansion with some new bookies being opened in the country.

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Turf Guardian’s Association welcomed the extended opening times. They said this was a “positive development” as it had been possible to place bets online or at a racecourse but not at the bookmakers.

Many had simply crossed the border to Ireland where bookmakers can open on a Sunday. Now that bookmakers in Northern Ireland can open on a Sunday (unless it’s Christmas Day), there will be a reduction in the illegal betting that takes place in pubs and clubs.

Three years ago, a consultation showed that 66 per cent of people believed there should be a lifting of some of the restrictions based on the gambling industry in Northern Ireland. Many also supported a change allowing bets to be taken on Sundays.

It’s not all good news for the Northern Ireland gambling industry. There will be a new code of practice and a mandatory tax. The future may see the introduction of an official gambling regulator. Another change sees those allowing minors to play gambling machines will face either six months in jail and/or fines.