When the Gambling Act 2005 came into force and changed the face of, amongst other things, prize promotion law, it took many a while to realise that it only applied in Great Britain. Now at last it seems
that Belfast has seen the light. Rosanna Foster reports.
Topic: Promotion marketing
Who: Department for Social Development, Northern Ireland
Where: Stormont Castle, Belfast
When: 10 January 2013
Law stated as at: 28 January 2013
Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland MLA has announced that Northern Ireland’s gambling laws will be updated and improved.
The announcement follows a public consultation (the “Consultation”) which took place in 2011 and on-going concern that the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (NI) Order 1985 (the “Order”), which currently regulates gambling in Northern Ireland, is becoming out of date in today’s gambling environment. The proposed changes are likely to lead to the law in Northern Ireland being brought into line with the rest of the UK in relation to prize draws.
Prize draws in Northern Ireland
Under the Order, it is unlawful to conduct in Northern Ireland any competition which offers prizes, where success does not depend to a
substantial degree on the exercise of skill. The effect of the Order is also that pure chance prize draws (as opposed to competitions where some effort or skill is needed to win) will only be legal if they are free to enter or provide a genuine alternative free entry route.
Prize draws in England, Scotland and Wales
The above principles are very similar to the relevant law in Great Britain before the coming into force of the Gambling Act 2005 (the
Since then, no commercial prize promotion will fall foul of British gambling legislation if it is neither betting, gaming or a lottery.
To summarise (advice should be taken in each case if there
is any doubt) purchase to enter prize draws will not be an illegal lottery, even without any alternative free entry route, provided the price of the product has not been artificially inflated to account for the costs of the promotion.
The same applies to any other prize promotion mechanic where winning is a matter of luck or mixed luck and skill, provided there is no other requirement to make a payment in order to enter. In this context having to enter by premium rate telephone call or premium rate text for example will be regarded as a payment to enter. Entry by internet, standard rate phone call or normal domestic postage will also not be regarded as involving a payment to enter.
As for competitions, there is a new skill threshold, but this only has to be met if, again, there is a requirement to make a payment in order to enter. The same approach is applied to the question of whether there is a requirement to pay to enter.
Even if the above rules are followed and lotteries avoided, care should be taken to avoid “gaming”, which is playing a game of
chance for a prize. Without licensing from the Gambling Commission, this will be a criminal offence.
Proposals for change in Northern Ireland
According to the Minister’s announcement, the new law will include a provision to enable residents of Northern Ireland to participate in
promotional prize draws on the same basis as those in other parts of the UK.
Some of the restrictions on advertising will also be lifted. Although details of this change have not been provided, the Consultation noted
that a change in the law could offer an opportunity to bring gambling
advertising rules in line with the rest of the UK, particularly in relation to broadcast advertising where, due to technical problems, ads may already be being broadcast to Northern Ireland inadvertently.
Work will now begin on drafting the new legislation which is expected to be brought before the Assembly before the end of the current mandate in 2015.
Why this matters:
The announcement signals the beginning of the end of promoters having to make special provisions for prize draws in order to comply
with the law in just part of the UK. This should make the running of a
promotion across the UK more straightforward.
It should be noted however that the new law is unlikely to include all the provisions of the Act. A Gambling Prevalence Survey carried out
in 2009 found that the rate of problem gambling in Northern Ireland is three times higher than in the rest of the UK, and conscious of this, the Minister has stated that new law will retain the current ban on casinos and contain a section protecting the young and vulnerable.