December 19, 2006, British Officials announced that they might consider allowing both bookmakers and bingo halls located in Northern Ireland to operate on Sundays. They have given the interested organizations and members of the community 14 weeks to respond to the matter.
If the plan pushes through, it will most likely take place in 2008. Northern Ireland is currently the only place in Britain that gambling establishments have to close on Sundays. The planned change follows a lobbying effort from the bookmakers, who have fought with the Government for permission to open their shops on Sundays. Last November, a horse race located at the Down Royal Race Course in County Down was named after their campaign. Adrian Eastwood, spokesman for the campaign, said that "Wagering happens whether people like it or not."
Eastwood further stated that people who are likely to wager every day of the week still want to place their bets on Sunday. You cannot stop an individual's desire of to place a wager on his favorite horse or football team, but it must be done with duly-licensed bookmakers.
These proposed changes will allow bookmakers to open between 10:30 GMT and 18:30 GMT, while bingo game halls will be allowed to open between 14:00 GMT and 23:00 GMT. Employment rights would also have to be implemented in order to protect any employees who do want to work on Sundays.
Nonetheless, the proposal faces stiff opposition and could be easily rejected if the Stormont Assembly, which is composed of the House of Commons and the Senate of Northern Ireland, is to re-convene. The Assembly is currently in a period of suspension. Minister for the Social Development David Hanson MP also said that the changes are only a proposal at this time and he intends to inquire the opinion of all the parties concerned. He also wants to assure everybody that they will be given enough time to air their side in the matter. In addition, Hanson is inviting opinions from any groups that are affected by this plan so that the final decision will be a well-informed one that takes all the issues into account.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007