Anyone travelling to the Ulster region hoping to enjoy a night at the casino is likely to be left disappointed. Northern Ireland’s strict and somewhat controversial gambling laws (dating back to 1985) have yet to be changed to allow traditional casinos to open.
The first steps to amend the laws were taken in 2011 but the process and negotiations surrounding it are still ongoing. At least two major casino operators have been planning a £300 million super casino in Belfast in anticipation of the impending law changes. However, despite public consultation into the process no one is holding their breath at this stage.
Plans for mega-casino still in pipeline
With opinions divided, the hot topic of casino gambling in Ulster is set to rumble on as supporters look to bring legislation in line with the rest UK where every other capital city has casino facilities. The idea of a mega-casino in the region, along with the revenue and jobs it could bring to Belfast, is certainly appealing to the city council. The proposed complex would also include a hotel and other leisure facilities and would also be a draw for tourists. Economically, it seems to make sense but there are still political hurdles to navigate. In the meantime, there are still a few opportunities for gamblers in the city.
Betting remains popular in Northern Ireland with the National Lottery being the most common form of gambling ahead of sports betting. There are over 300 bookmaker’s outlets offering sports betting and a couple of racetracks that host live horse racing. Bingo is also permitted, and there are over 40 halls open across the country.
Casino opportunities for Ulster residents
Those who want to enjoy casino-style gambling will find plenty of high-profile online casinos willing to accept customers from Ulster and Northern Ireland, such as Betfair Casino, which has a whole range of slots, roulette and blackjack games available alongside live casino titles with real dealers. For anyone concerned about the legislation, there are no laws preventing punters from wagering at online sites registered outside of the country and all reputable online operators clearly state their country of registration on their websites.
For those who prefer to visit a physical casino, a trip south of the border is required. There are plenty of casinos in Dublin where visitors can enjoy a full range of gambling facilities including table games, slot machines and poker. The biggest casinos such as The Fitzwilliam Casino and Card Club also show live sports and pay-per-view events on the venue’s big screens.
Online casinos at least give players in Ulster who want to play on a regular basis without leaving the country an opportunity to enjoy a full casino experience. Whether they will soon have the chance to enjoy a more traditional night out at the casino remains to be seen. But there has been a slow shift in that direction over the last eight years.