Overview of the current law
In Northern Ireland gambling (other than the National Lottery) is regulated under the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (NI) Order 1985 ("the Order") (the 1985 Order) as amended by the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022.
This legislation regulates a wide range of betting, gaming, lotteries and amusement activity in Northern Ireland. This includes:- betting in bookmaking offices and on tracks; the use, supply and maintenance of gaming machines; gaming in bingo clubs; small scale amusements with prizes; and lotteries other than the National Lottery. The Department is also responsible for issuing track-betting licences.
The Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 makes changes to the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (NI) Order 1985. On the 1 October 2023, the following three provisions came into effect:
Section 7 introduced a new offence around inviting, causing or permitting an individual under the age of 18 to play a gaming machine other than a lower limit machine;
Section 13 revised the definition of cheating which makes it an offence for any person to either cheat at gambling or do anything to enable or assist another person to cheat at gambling; and
Section 16 provided the Department with the power to issue one or more Codes of Practice about the manner in which facilities for gambling are provided.
The courts and district councils license and certify most gambling activities. The courts ultimately determine if any offences or breaches of the law may have been committed and the appropriate penalties. Responsibility for enforcing gambling law lies with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
DfC has published a number of guides on various aspects of the law on gambling. DfC guidance leaflets can be found at the links below.
- Leaflet on bingo
- Leaflet on gaming machines
- Leaflet on lottery law
- Leaflet on prize competitions in Northern Ireland
Review of existing law
In May 2021, the then Minister for Communities announced plans for a two-phased review of existing gambling law. The first phase of that review was completed in 2022. This involved the introduction of amending legislation - the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 – to address a number of anomalies in the 1985 Order and to give the Department more power in certain areas to encourage and promote socially responsible practices.
The proposal for Phase 2 was for a wider reform with an aim to regulate online gambling and gaming.
The Assembly dissolved in March 2022 and therefore any decision to progress further reform will be for an incoming Minister and Executive..
Concerned about how much you may be gambling?
If you're concerned that you're spending too much time and/or money gambling there are many tools available that you can use to manage your relationship and interaction with gambling. These range from simple questionnaires to online interactive tools and free confidential help, advice and counselling services, available by telephone and online chat.
You can also choose to use ‘blocking’ software if you want to limit your access to gambling sites or other services available over the internet. A ‘site-blocker’ can block access from computers, tablets and phones to many online gambling websites. Site blockers may also prevent you from seeing some gambling advertising.
Self-exclusion can also be an effective tool to assist you in regaining control of your gambling. All licensed arcades, betting shops, bingo venues, casinos and online gambling operators offer a gambling self-exclusion scheme.
The Safer Gambling Website can help you take action by providing access to the tools you may need to manage your relationship with gambling.
If gambling is affecting you financially, the Money Helper website offers free and impartial advice.
You can contact the Dunlewey Helpline on 08000 886 725 to find out about the counselling and support services available in your area.
Visit nidirect for more information on gambling support.
Limit the gambling content you see
There are measures you can put in place to limit your exposure to gambling advertisements or gambling related content across social media. There are terms and conditions for any operators who wish to advertise gambling to consumers here, they must also hold a licence from the Gambling Commission. The Gambling Commission website can offer help, advice and information.