All bets are on as Bookies and Bingo open on Sundays

Wednesday 4 May 2022 11:46

Bingo halls and bookmakers across Northern Ireland are legally permitted to open on Sundays.

However, it is appearing unlikely for some bookmakers as the extra day will lead to staffing issues, many bookmakers needing to hire more staff or increase staff hours.

The change came into act on Sunday. It has been 35 years since a change so significant has been made to the betting laws. It is believed to have been a shock for many businesses, although many are delighted.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey introduced the Betting Gaming Lotteries and Amusements Amendment Bill in Northern Ireland in 2022. Although the bill passed the first 7 stages towards becoming a law , it failed to past the final stages before the Assembly mandate ended in March. This therefore introduced the idea that the bill would be locked in the system for the foreseeable future.

The changes are also set to apply to Good Friday but will not apply to any Sundays that are on Christmas Day.

Businesses affected by the change all received an email to confirm, which stated:

"It was reported that the email from the Department to businesses read "I am very pleased to inform you that FDC has just today received confirmation that the legislation has received royal assent and become slaw today, April 26, 2022."

Although this is going to lead to business for bookmakers across the country, there are consequences.

The extra day will mean that bookmakers and bingo halls will be open 7 days a week. Therefore, this could possibly lead to an increase in the number of gambling addictions.

Cuan Mhuire Trust in Newry is a rehabilitation centre for people living with gambling, drug and alcohol addictions.

CEO of Cuan Mhuire Gerry McElroy highlighted the dangers of additional hours in bettuing shops.

“I suppose accessibility will always lead to the potential of problematic gambling. Although, I am you are aware the people that we would get in would be people using online gambling. They wouldn’t be people that would say they don’t gamble on a Saturday and don’t gamble on a Sunday because the bookmakers are closed. These people will have made plans and they are probably online.

Mr McElroy referred to the introduction of minimum pricing of alcohol, and how its introduction affected people with drinking problems:

"It’s similar to when the minimum alcohol pricing laws came into act. I have never had anybody come into Cuann Mhuire and say the reason they want to give up the drink is because it has gotten too dear. The people we would have been properly addicted, as I said price increases wouldn’t be the full solution.

Mr McElroy is aware that online gambling is accessible to people and so the opening of Bookmakers on Sunday will not have a major impact:

"If you take a person who is addicted to gambling, I am sure after all these years, they have found a way around the Sunday closures, especially because there is online gambling. This also allows it to be a more hidden addiction, as even their families and friends are unaware of it.

"However, anything that increases the availability of irresponsible gambling can lead to problems."

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