As new laws for prize promotions arrive under the Gambling Act 2005, the spotlight has belatedly fallen on a potentially crucial quirk of the new legislation: for the most part it does not apply in Northern Ireland. Nick Johnson reports from Belfast (ish).
Topic: Promotion marketing
Who: Northern Ireland Department for Social Development
When: August 2007
Law stated as at: 28 August 2007
Contrary to the expectations of many in the promotional marketing industry, the provisions of the Gambling Act 2005 that impact on prize draws and prize competitions have not been extended to Northern Ireland. It appears that there are no current plans for this to happen.
Why this matters:
Although a limited number of provisions in the Gambling Act 2005 do apply to Northern Ireland, most of it extends only to England, Wales and Scotland. This includes the provisions in the Act as to lotteries, which underpin the position on prize draws and prize competitions. So the new rules allowing purchase-linked prize draws without a free entry route (provided essentially that the product is sold at normal price) apply only in Great Britain (ie Scotland, Wales and England).
It had been widely expected that the provisions of the Act would be extended to Northern Ireland by an Order in Council. However it appears now that this will not happen – or at least not imminently. Following the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly in May after four and a half years of suspension, the NI Department for Social Development has, according to Institute of Sales Promotion reports, indicated that there is now no intention to extend the remit of any provisions of the Gambling Act to Northern Ireland.
The applicable law in Northern Ireland accordingly continues to be found in the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Northern Ireland) Order 1985. It essentially mirrors the current position in Great Britain.
Brands with a UK-wide customer base will therefore have a number of potential options when seeking to run legal purchase-linked prize draws and instant win promotions after the new Act comes into force on 1 September 2007. These will include the following:
1. Do not include a "No Purchase Necessary" alternative entry route, but limit eligibility so that Northern Ireland residents may not participate in relevant promotions.
2. As with (1), but instead of expressly limiting eligibility, simply ensure that promotional packs and marketing materials supporting the promotion do not reach Northern Ireland. (This may not be easy in practice.)
3. Continue to include free entry routes for all entrants (ie both Northern Ireland and Great Britain).
4. Run separate promotions for Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
Doubtless some promoters may be prepared to consider taking a risk and hoping that the Northern Ireland authorities will not seek to enforce this area of the law against them. However the potential down side of going down this route could be considerable: criminal sanctions would be available against both the promoter and potentially directors and other senior company staff. There is also the risk of promotion-related contracts being unenforceable in Northern Ireland.
It is to be hoped that an increasing trend to exclude NI residents from participating in promotions will build public pressure on Northern Ireland's devolved government to bring the territory's prize promotion regime in line with that in the rest of the UK.