Bookie wins test case against Dundalk Stadium over €8,000 fee

Judge rules boycott by some bookies over introduction of fee was ‘seriously anti-competitive’

Dundalk Stadium racing track.

Dundalk Stadium racing track.

Thu, Feb 20, 2014, 01:02

A bookmaker has won a High Court test case challenging Dundalk Stadium’s requirement that he pay €8,000 as a capital contribution to the €35 million redevelopment of the venue in 2007.

However, Mr Justice Gerard Hogan also ruled that a boycott by some bookies over the introduction of the fee was “seriously anti-competitive”, in breach of the law and that it should end immediately.

In his action, Francis Hyland claimed the fee was a “levy” that the stadium had no right to impose under rules governing bookies’ “pitches” at racecourses.

‘Pitch rules’
He sought a declaration that Dundalk Racing (1999) Ltd, trading as Dundalk Stadium, had failed to comply with Association of Irish Racecourses “pitch rules”, which had established a scheme of seniority over where a bookie could set up his stall on a racecourse. More senior bookmakers have pitches where punter footfall is higher, the court heard.

Mr Hyland claimed Dundalk Stadium unilaterally decided the seniority provision would no longer apply from 2007 following the redevelopment. That meant pitches would only be allocated on payment of an €8,000 “levy” that amounted to the racecourse selectively choosing rules which suit its own purposes, he claimed.

His was a test case for 31 similar actions by other bookies.

All-weather racetrack
Dundalk Stadium denied his claims and argued that, as it was a new racecourse, the first all-weather racetrack in Ireland, and only registered as such after August 2007, it was not governed by pitch rules. It counter-claimed that Mr Hyland and other bookmakers unlawfully picketed and boycotted the racecourse.

Mr Justice Hogan ruled that Dundalk remained in substance the same course as it was in 2001, at least in the sense contemplated by the pitch rules. It had no entitlement to demand bookies pay an €8,000 capital contribution as a condition of taking up a pitch at the new stadium, he found. He also found the pitch rules did not violate the Competition Act 2002.