Amusement arcades team up to challenge gaming licence refusals

Revenue last year decided that machines in venues were not items of amusement

Revenue last year said it considered ‘one-armed bandit’ and similar machines to be for gaming rather than items of amusement. Photograph: iStock

Revenue last year said it considered ‘one-armed bandit’ and similar machines to be for gaming rather than items of amusement. Photograph: iStock

 

A group of amusement arcade owners have pooled resources to challenge a Dublin District Court judge’s refusal to grant them gaming licences on the basis that his court did not have power to do so.

Circuit Court President Mr Justice Raymond Groarke, faced with a list of appeals against the district court’s decisions, decided on Thursday that he would consider referring a Case Stated to the Court of Appeal to rule on whether or not the lower court has jurisdiction to grant gaming licences.

A Case Stated consists of a written statement of facts submitted to a higher court for its binding opinion on a question of law or jurisdiction, in these cases Judge Michael Coghlan’s decision that he does not have power to grant the licenses.

Barrister Dorothy Collins, counsel for Expo, The Square, Tallaght, and almost a dozen other Dublin arcade-owning companies, including Dr Quirkey’s on O’Connell Street, told Judge Groarke that it was proposed to bring two test appeals challenging the district court rulings.

Kerry Jane Morgan, counsel for the second company, Jenstar Investments Limited, Old Nangor Road, Clondalkin, said a major issue in the appeals before the Circuit Civil Court was whether or not alleged legal impediments to the granting of the gaming licences could be overturned on the supremacy of EU law.

Dublin City Council adopted the 1956 Gaming and Lotteries Act which allowed the granting of gaming licences but, on rescinding this decision under 1986 legislation, arcades continued to trade on foot of amusement permits issued by the Revenue Commissioners for each “one-armed-bandit” or similar amusement machine.

Reviewed

Revenue used to inspect amusement premises annually, and sometimes twice a year, until last June when licences were reviewed. This led to 21-day warning letters being issued to the various arcade-owning companies, telling them Revenue considered the machines to be gaming machines and not items of amusement. The decision meant that the operation of the gaming machines, as defined by Revenue, was illegal and required a gaming licence.

The decision applied to thousands of machines which Revenue now had a right to seize. It has removed 300 of them from arcades and casinos since September, renting special warehousing facilities in which to store them.

A licence fee for an amusement machine is €125. For a gaming machine it can be up to €700 and in some premises there are up to 500 of these.

When Judge Groarke said he would consider a Case Stated to the Court of Appeal, Ms Collins and Ms Morgan, and Constance Cassidy SC, for the Licensed Gaming Association of Ireland, agreed to provide legal submissions. The association represents already legally licensed casinos in a number of counties including Wicklow and Donegal.

Rebutting submissions are to be considered and lodged by Dublin City Council and South Dublin County Council.

The appellants include Dublin Games Club, Amiens Street, Dublin 1; Classic Snooker Limited, Ballygall Road West, Finglas; Coalquay Leisure Limited, Rathmines Road and Lower Camden Street; Empire Amusements, Burgh Quay; Paul O’Brien and others, Santry and Tallaght; Dublin Pool and Jukebox Company, Dr Quirkey’s Good Time Emporium of O’Connell Street and Phibsboro Road; D Cafolla, Lower O’Connell Street; Automatic Amusements, Lower Dorset Street; Starville Promotions, Eden Quay; Jenstar Investments, Old Nangor Road, Clondalkin; Sports Arena Ltd, Barneys, Marlborough Street, and Newry Leisure Ltd, Upper Dorset Street.

The appeals are to be mentioned again in the Circuit Civil Court prior to consideration on the question of a Case Stated.