20 years of restrictions
Iceland, known for its gorgeous scenery, cold winters, and tough stance on gambling, made a significant decision this week.
In 1997, a law was passed that made it illegal for Icelanders to engage in any form of gambling, or to hold dances or private parties in restaurants on Sundays and religious holidays. There were exemptions for art exhibitions, film screenings, and theatrical performances, but only after 3 pm.
This meant that everything from a flutter on the lottery to a seat at bingo was banned on Sunday.
The law was rarely enforced and there were protests to get it scrapped. Religious holidays such as Good Friday, Easter, and Christmas were also affected. As a form of protest, the Atheist organization Vantrú has held a Good Friday bingo event for the last ten years.
In February, a bill was introduced by Independence Party MP and former Attorney General Sigríður Á. Andersen to scrap the law and it was passed earlier this week with support from both sides of the political spectrum. The Centre party, however, largely voted against.
Other prohibitions overturned
But it’s not just bingo that is back on the cards, the new bill also overturns the previous law, which prohibited “hotel operations and related services, the operation of pharmacies, gas stations, car garages, shops at airports and duty-free, flower shops, kiosks, video rentals, as well as grocers with a retail space of less than 600 square meters (6,458 square feet) where at least two-thirds of the sales turnover is from foodstuffs, beverages, and tobacco.”
Andersen later wrote on Facebook that she was delighted with the win, although she made note that the bill was not intended to detract from religious holidays. She said: “With this, the last impediments to providing and enjoying services on the National Church’s specified religious holidays have been eliminated. The days in question are part of our Christian heritage and as such, they should, of course, be commemorated.”
The Icelandic government is currently reviewing gambling as a whole.