Online gambling in Northern Ireland

Gamble responsibly

Online gambling in Northern Ireland - introduction

As explained in our guide to UK gambling regulation, certain differences currently exist between gambling laws and regulations in Northern Ireland and those that cover the rest of the UK.

Legislation and regulatory responsibilities applying to both spread betting and the National Lottery are the same throughout the UK, including Northern Ireland. See our guide to UK gambling regulation for more information concerning the bodies that are responsible for overseeing these activities.

For other types of online gambling (betting, casino, games, poker, bingo, etc), potential differences apply for consumers in Northern Ireland versus consumers who live elsewhere in the UK. These differences relate a) to laws, b) to bodies that are responsible for regulating gambling providers and c) to the activities in which consumers may lawfully engage.

This probably sounds more alarming in theory than it is likely to be in practice - at least for consumers. During the course of discussions with Northern Ireland's Department for Social Development (DSD), we clarified the following:

- Northern Ireland (NI) doesn't yet have any legislation that specifically covers online or "remote" gambling. Gambling-related matters in Northern Ireland are therefore currently addressed by interpreting gaming legislation dating from 1985.

- The key point of difference (for residents of NI vs residents of Great Britain) is that any operator that provides online gambling services to NI residents via equipment that is physically located in Northern Ireland needs a "premises licence", even if that equipment is simply a web server being used to faciliate the provision of online gambling.

- Due to the nature of NI's existing legislation, the issue is less likely to affect online bookmakers than it is to affect operators of sites that offer casino, poker or other gaming-related services.

If you're a resident of Northern Ireland who is planning to gamble online with a gambling operator whose physical equipment (ie web server) is located outside the country, you're completely fine. If you were to gamble online with an operator whose equipment was located in NI, but who didn't have a premises licence, then you'd be breaking the law (as would the operator).

How can you establish where a gambling operator's equipment is based? That's an excellent question to which we don't have an answer. Would the DSD be more likely to pursue a gambling operator for breaking the law than an unsuspecting consumer? When asked, they seemed to suggest so.

Does that imply that, as a resident of Northern Ireland, you should gamble online without worrying at all about the identity or location of the gambling operator? Of course not. In our opinion (which is only an opinion, remember), any consumer should do their best to ensure that any gambling operator with which they choose to bet or gamble is both reputable and subject to oversight by a respected regulatory authority.

Which brings us nicely to our conclusion. We can't vouch for where any web servers may be based. But we do aim to feature within our directory listings only those betting and gambling operators whose activities are subject to the laws and regulations of what most people would consider to be trustworthy authorities.

As an aside, our enquiries on this subject highlighted an inaccuracy in the Gambling Commissions's own frequently asked questions and answers, which we expect will be updated as a result. This is perhaps a good reflection on how much effort we put into trying to establish and relay accurate information.

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Resources and advice

BetStop.info features gambling sites for UK consumers aged 18+. We urge responsible attitudes and behaviour when gambling. Resources, help & info:

- BetStop.info's responsible gambling guide;
- Gamble Aware - advice about gambling;
- GamCare - online, phone & counselling support;
- Gamblers Anonymous - fellowship-based help.

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