Two bookmakers have claimed that illegal casinos are rife in Northern Ireland and that even legal premises are running more profitable illegal operations at night.
The independent bookmakers Gary Tool and Paul McLean told the Communities Committee at Northern Ireland’s Stormont Assembly that legal bingo and gaming premises were running illegal casinos so they could accept higher stakes.
Toal, the owner of Toals Bookmakers, which has 50 branches across Northern Ireland, said that Northern Irish police felt they were under-resourced to be able to respond to the cases.
The Communities committee is currently reviewing Northern Ireland’s Betting Gaming Lotteries and Amusements Bill, which proposes the first major changes to Northern Irish gambling legislation in four decades.
Supporting the bill’s proposals for betting shops to be allowed to open on Sundays, Tool and McLean claimed that betting currently takes place illegally at pubs and clubs despite the ban.
Mr McLean, who runs A. McLean Bookmakers and the Betmclean.com site, said:
“You can bet on your phone in church if you want but not in betting shops which are licenced for gambling.”
Toal insisted that existing staff would not be forced to work on Sundays if they didn’t want to.
Northern Ireland’s Betting, Gaming, Lotteries amendment.
The first stage of a planned overhaul of gambling regulations, the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Amendment) Bill focuses on land-based gaming, which is currently regulated by an order from 1985.
It would allow high-street betting shops and bingo clubs to open on Sundays and Bank Holidays, including Good Friday.
The bill would introduce a statutory levy to direct funds to responsible gambling initiatives, problem gambling treatment and community programmes. It would also set a minimum age of 18 for all gambling products and make it an offence for licensed operators and hospitality venues to allow anyone underage to play.
Communities minister Deirdre Hargey, who is leading the amendment of Northern Ireland’s gambling laws, has since proposed further measures, including the introduction of a mandatory code of practice for land-based gambling venues. Hargey has opened a consultation to define the requirements that the code would include.
Source: Focus Gaming News