It’s been an ongoing debate over the years as to whether we will see a Belfast casino in the City anytime soon.
If someone in Northern Ireland wants to play some games today, they have to do so using the internet at one of the many licensed online casinos that operate in the UK – LeoVegas, 888 Casino, Casino Gods, etc. If you check for example, what the complete LeoVegas Casino Experience offers, you’ll find that players are able to enjoy a wide range of games, slots and region-specific welcome packages. Belfast players can gain some skill with online casinos, but in order to have fun at a land based casino, the law will need to change.
At the moment, gambling in Northern Ireland is regulated by an old law. The Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (NI) Order 1985 to be precise. There’s been talk already this year about a law change, but what needs to be done for that to happen?
Department of Communities Consultation
The Department for Communities (DfC) recently launched a public consultation on the new gambling laws. That consultation opened in mid-January and was open until 21 February. The topics that were brought up included the regulation of remote gambling, rules on advertising from a gambling point of view, the categorisation of gaming machines, and the law around prize competitions from a promotional standpoint.
“With the existing legislation dating back to 1985, it really fails to address the social and technological realities of gambling in 2020,” gambling law expert James Griffiths of Pinsent Masons, said. “Reform is long overdue, and this renewed consultation exercise is an important first step in reframing Northern Ireland’s laws covering a diverse range of areas such as gambling, gaming, lotteries, prize competitions and advertising.”
Tracy Meharg, permanent secretary of the DfC, added “I know that the gambling industry is an important employer in Northern Ireland and that gambling is an activity which is enjoyed responsibly by a large number of people. However, it is very important to recognise that for some people, gambling has the potential to cause considerable harm. Any future changes to the law must balance the interests of the gambling industry with the need for regulation to protect vulnerable people,”
“There is no doubt that the current legislation is outdated and has not kept pace with industry and technological changes. This consultation will allow everyone with an interest in gambling to share their views on the current legislation and will put the department in a position to offer the best advice to an incoming minister on the future regulatory framework,” Meharg said.
What Would a Casino Mean for Belfast?
A casino in Belfast would create many opportunities and has many benefits attached to it. Those benefits include:
- Increased Job Opportunities – Whenever you open a new casino, they’re going to need new employees. The salaries might not be at the top end, but you can make some nice tips working in a casino. More jobs is only a good thing for the city.
- Economic Development – In terms of measuring economic stability, the per capita income increase with a new casino certainly gives you a crucial measure of that. Essentially, as well as the local economy benefits, the local residents will too.
- Entertainment – Casinos around the world are there for entertainment. You can get suited and booted or glam up in those cocktail dresses for a fantastic evening at a casino. Not to mention the vast number of games available to you. It should always be entertainment too, that must never be forgotten. Make sure you’re always betting within your means.
Opening a casino in Belfast will bring many benefits to the city but, as Tracy Mehard pointed out, it could lead to some problems for those who have an issue with betting, and that should be managed well during any process of introducing a new casino into the area. The Belfast casino topic reared its head two years ago and it’s rearing its head again. Surely it’s only a matter of time before we see Belfast’s 35 year legislation change to be in line with the 2020 way of thinking? Nothing’s ever that straightforward though, and it will be interesting to see what this year will bring in terms of change for gambling in Belfast and the whole of Northern Ireland.