Huge gamble to be taken on Northern Ireland’s first casino?

November 24, 2017

Despite much talk and consultation over the years, casinos remain banned in Northern Ireland. Gambling is a transferred matter for the purposes of the NI Act 1998 and is currently regulated in Northern Ireland by The Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Northern Ireland) Order 1985. Belfast is the only major city in the UK that does not have the opportunity to open a casino and there appears to be an increasing appetite for a change in legislation. However, what are the odds of this changing?

There are ambitious plans from a large gambling company with sites across the UK to open Northern Ireland’s first casino. However, they will first have to overcome the problem that there are no immediate plans to change the law in Northern Ireland. The company have appealed to Belfast City Council who are carrying out a public consultation to gauge the response to changing licensing laws and bringing a major gambling development to Belfast.

The outcome of the consultation will ultimately be brought before the Department for Communities and it will be the role of the NI Assembly to decide on any changes to the law governing both casinos and licensing hours.

The legislation around gambling in Northern Ireland is considered by some to be inflexible and overly restrictive in the face of developments in the gambling market. The opening of a casino could be a significant boost to the Northern Irish Economy, creating jobs and supporting the growing Northern Irish Tourist industry. There will always be concerns however, about the dangers of problem gambling and any potential gaming operation would no doubt have to be strictly regulated and monitored.

More detailed information about the nature of the proposed development will be necessary and the consultation will show what appetite there is for such a complex in the city. As noted, the decision to make provision in our law for this type of project rests with the NI Assembly so it may be unwise to bet on it happening any time soon.

This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor.

Peter Lockhart, Licensing Solicitor, Cleaver Fulton Rankin.