Reasons why NI gambling laws are “a little different”.

The four countries that make up the UK are self-governing, meaning they can have their own gambling laws and regulations. While gambling laws in Wales and Scotland are largely the same as those in England, there are some glaring differences between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Despite the differences, there is some similarity between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. For example, Gamstop, an online gambling self-exclusion system, is available to players across the UK, including Northern Ireland. (If you live in Northern Ireland and want to play outside of the program, check out the non-Gamstop offer selected by Sergio Zammit on

The main reason why gambling laws are different in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK is due to regulation and legislation.

Gambling laws in the rest of the UK are based on the Gambling Act 2005. Regulation is also carried out by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).

However, this is not the case in Northern Ireland. Instead, gambling laws in NI are based entirely on the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries & Amusements (NI) Order 1985 (which was later amended in 2022). Any form of gambling (other than the National Lottery) must comply with this law.

In general, gambling laws in Northern Ireland are considered to be far more restrictive than the laws in Great Britain. One of these restrictions is that it is illegal to open physical casinos in Northern Ireland, while there are many brick-and-mortar casinos in Scotland, England and Wales.

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Although it is against the law, bookmakers claim that there are illegal gambling establishments in Northern Ireland.

Another key difference is that it is currently illegal to make bets of any kind that are based on chance rather than any provable skill.

Online gambling is legal, but it is illegal to set up an online gambling platform in NI. Therefore, players are also prohibited from playing on websites illegally based in Northern Ireland.

So if you live in Northern Ireland and want to play online poker, you will need to use sites based elsewhere. Typically, NI residents use gambling sites based in the Isle of Man or Malta as they generally do not have access to gambling sites regulated by the UKGC and based in mainland Britain.

Not only does the UKGC not regulate gambling in Northern Ireland, the country also does not have an alternative independent regulator. Instead, any changes to gambling legislation in NI must be passed by the Assembly. This assembly regulates everything in the country – not just gambling. This is another reason why gambling laws are so different.

Without a dedicated body, gambling legislation does not receive as much attention as it does in the UK. This may be why gambling laws in Northern Ireland are often described as outdated, as updates to gambling laws are rare.

Several historical, economic and social factors arguably influence why gambling laws vary so much in Northern Ireland. As outlined in this Institute of Public Health report, gambling is a serious health and social problem. For this reason, the government may be reluctant to re-evaluate and change the current gambling laws.

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