With full lockdown measures still in place in Northern Ireland, it is expected that many citizens will turn to online gambling as weeks in the house turn into months.
When it was first blocked in March 2020, online gambling and betting increased sharply. Almost 1 million more bets were placed in the UK and Northern Ireland during the lockdown, as shown by Gambling Insights statistics below.
The total number of online #gaming bets placed in the UK since it was first blocked in March 2020 has now increased + 17% to a total of 50,688,098,194.
The Gambling Commission does not consider this to be a problem. Clear second wave of increased bets.
– Gambling Insight 💙 (@GamblingInsight) January 20, 2021
When the second lock was enforced, the number of bets placed online increased again. According to the BBC, online searches for the keyword “online casino” hit a record high during the lockdown.
Initially, there was a sharp decline in many forms of gambling due to the cancellation of sporting events in 2020. This made sure that sports betting was out of the question. Football and horse racing make up 75% of the UK sports betting market. The discontinuation of these two sports was a key factor in the decline in prices for many gambling companies.
Players who would normally bet on sports switched to online casinos and gambled on slot machines instead. This shift continued until 2021.
The project manager at a Megaways casino tells us that the search traffic directed to the casino website has increased dramatically during each lockdown period.
William Brown of Megaways Casino told LoveBelfast:
“The evidence shows that people who are forced to stay indoors get bored quickly and look for activities.
“The age of the internet has ensured that it has never been easier to access gambling online. Our website enables our visitors to access Megaways casinos online from anywhere in the world.
“Now that we’re seeing another lockdown in the UK and Wales in 2021, statistics are suggesting people are turning their computers back on to play casino games.”
The Gambling Act is to be updated in March 2021
For a number of years there has been a call for an update to the 2005 Gaming Act, which sets the rules for all gaming companies operating in the UK. Those who oppose online gambling claim that at the time the law was drafted, the internet was not as generally accessible as it is today, and called for the law to be rewritten to make it “fit for the digital age”.
In late 2020, the government announced a review of the gambling law. The call for evidence for review is expected to be published on March 31, 2021. This explains what changes will be made to the law.
Problem gambling naysayers believe that tighter regulation of the online gambling market in the UK and Northern Ireland will pose a greater threat to an online gambling black market. There are already casinos that are not regulated by the UK Gambling Commission but still accept UK players.
What can be expected from the updated Gambling Act?
The government is expected to update the law to make the online marketplace safer for gamers. Currently every online casino player can earn up to € 500 with a slot machine. Gambling critics expect the government to limit this amount.
In 2019 the government enacted measures to ensure that the slot machines in land-based gaming venues were limited. The max bet has been reduced from £ 100 to £ 2. We saw something similar in the area of online gambling.
The main objective of the review is: “To investigate whether changes are needed to the UK gaming regulation system to reflect changes in the gaming landscape since 2005, particularly due to technological advances.”
Northern Irish Laws
However, Northern Ireland gambling laws may not follow. Currently, gambling in Northern Ireland is regulated by the 1985 Ordinance, which is based on an old UK law from the 1960s – a law that was replaced by the Gambling Act of 2005. The gambling law in Northern Ireland is certainly out of date.
Several prominent Northern Ireland politicians have suggested that gambling legislation in the country is inadequate.