Gambling in Belfast has long since been up for debate. There has been criticism regarding the complicated laws and legislation dating back to 1985. A movement has attempted to changes these laws beginning in 2011 to no success. A casino development for £200 million is being planned by the Rank Group in Belfast. This would require changes in the law. The laws are different than in the rest of the United Kingdom.
In 2011 an attempt was made to overhaul the gambling laws of Northern Ireland. A public consultation was launched to make the laws current. Despite the positive responses there has been no progress in modernizing the laws. This may change due to a recent development. The Rank Group made suggestions in 2014 and were unsuccessful. The Belfast City Council is taking their proposal for a £200 million casino development seriously. The enthusiasm of the council is because this is more than a casino. The development includes an entertainment and leisure complex and a hotel. This would be an excellent tourist attraction, create roughly 1,000 new jobs and reduce unemployment.
There are only four capital cities in the United Kingdom that do not allow gambling including Belfast. The Rank Group's findings must be given to the Department for Communities to decide if it is advisable to change the law. This would increase the two million visitors from overseas who come to see attractions such as the Titanic museum. There are a lot of casinos located south of the border with many in Dublin. The Fitzwilliam Casino and Card Club has the highest profile. The club opened their prime location in 2003. They host a wide variety of cash games and tournaments. Their pay per view events and big screens have made them popular with the sports fans. They offer a lot of games including Blackjack. This game is played throughout the world more than any other.
Northern Ireland is home to approximately 330 licensed bookmaking offices, 40 bingo clubs, two greyhound tracks and two tracks for horse racing. Online casinos are highly enjoyed. This is especially true because land casinos are currently prohibited. According to the law if the online casino is not based in Northern Ireland it is legal for the players to frequent. The only possible issue would be a Northern Ireland based operator without an official license for operations. There is a good selection of online casinos offered. The majority make it clear where they are based making it easy to remain within the law.
It is still currently unknown if there will be changes made to the law to enable real casinos to open. There is past evidence demonstrating the Northern Irish Assembly are extremely conservative and remain firm concerning their views. They have always believed gambling should not be encouraged but repressed. It is possible their attitude will soften as time passes. The fact gambling would boost their economy may be what is necessary to change their minds. Only time will tell if surprising changes are on the horizon.