Excuse the tongue-twister headline, but we wanted to draw your attention to the important changes have been made to Northern Ireland (NI) I gambling law by the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022, which came into force last month.

The new legislation amends the current law to make it clear that 'newspaper games of chance', including prize draws, are legal in NI so long as there’s no payment required from entrants to participate. 

The new legislation helpfully makes it clear that buying goods at their normal price, including newspapers, won’t count as payment to participate. 

This means that the “No Purchase Necessary” qualification, so often made in the past to deal with the different legal landscape in Northern Ireland, can now be dropped from a UK-wide prize draw, provided that no other payment is required to participate in the draw. 

However, "payment to participate" does include charging for entry, or increasing the normal cost of the entry route beyond its standard price. For example, routing entry through a premium rate phone-line, or charging extra to find out who’s won the competition, would each impose an unusual cost on entry and would qualify as payment to participate – and therefore would still be illegal under NI law. The position in NI is therefore largely in line with the laws and realities in Great Britain (GB) since 2007.

The updated laws in NI haven’t turned the regime into an exact copy of GB law, though. It’s important to remember that NI law doesn’t use the same terminology as GB law, which distinguishes between two types of events: competitions (skill-based) and prize draws (chance-based). NI law uses the term 'competitions' loosely to cover both types of activities, and makes the distinction instead between games of skill (legal), and chance-based games (legal provided that there’s no payment to participate).

NI gambling law is complex, and other restrictions can impact on draws in specific situations: specialist advice should always be obtained. However, a rough triage approach to adopt when considering an activity in NI is as follows:

  • What, exactly, is the proposed activity? Ignore descriptions like competitions or prize draws: instead, work out whether success in the activity depends mainly on skill or on chance.
  • If it’s a skill-based activity, it’s likely to be OK under NI law, and it doesn’t matter whether or not entrants pay to participate.
  • If it’s a chance-based activity, it’s only going to be OK under NI law so long as there’s no payment to participate. However, normal purchase costs, which for so long led to the NPN qualification, don’t count as payment to participate.

If you have any queries on this, or anything else related to prize promotions, please do get in contact with one of our team: