Northern Ireland as an enterprize zone

Letter from Richard Glynn, CEO of Ladbrokes, to the Chair

I am writing to make you aware that on the 20th January 2011 the Northern Ireland Executive will consider a proposal from the Minister for Social Development for an amendment of the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusement (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 to allow Sunday opening hours for the first time.

The betting and gaming industry is a major sector in Northern Ireland, with the Turf Guardian Association representing over 300 shops and 1500 jobs. The industry is very keen to continue to grow and considers the ability to open on Sundays a key factor in enabling this and thereby stimulating employment and taxation growth.

The opening of shops and facilities on a Sunday is a long established practice elsewhere in the United Kingdom (and the Republic of Ireland) and is of significant economic benefit. Independent research verified by the Department of Social Development suggests the creation of over 160 jobs and an additional £32 million to the Northern Irish economy as a result of amending the Sunday restrictions to allow opening between 10:30am and 6:30pm. It is also estimated that currently £4.2 million per year is being spent on illegal gambling which prospers under the current restrictions.

This proposal is supported by the relevant departmental minister, the Minister for Social Development and has been ready for progress since June 2008. However the Northern Ireland Executive has refused to table the potential legislation until now and we are concerned that this issue will not be dealt with appropriately or worse, rejected. To delay this proposal would severely damage confidence and stability in the industry as well as neglect the opportunity to gain substantial economic benefits for the Northern Ireland economy in a very difficult period.

As a senior Member of Parliament with a key interest in Northern Ireland, I would be grateful if you could look into this matter and consider raising the concerns of the industry with the necessary decision makers. I enclose a recent independent report on the ‘Economic impact of the relaxation of Sunday restrictions on betting and gamin law’ for your information. If you require anything further or have any question, please do not hesitate to contact me.

12 January 2011