Legislation needed to clear future for gambling

 

AS THINGS stand, casinos are illegal in the Republic under the 1956 Gaming and Lottery Act.

Despite this, up to 50 venues throughout the State offer casino-type games and have been able to avoid prosecution as they are run as private members’ clubs.

Slot machines and poker machines – an important element of any casino, as they offer fixed returns for the venue – are also illegal in many local authority areas, including Dublin city, which outlawed them in 1987.

A consultation paper on legislative options for the gambling sector was published in December by then minister for justice Dermot Ahern.

The paper outlined a framework for licensing and regulating small-scale casinos which operate as members’ clubs and included a proposal to allow a “resort” casino similar to that proposed for Tipperary.

It proposed the framing of legislation to allow for the establishment of registered casinos with up to 15 gaming tables and about three times as many gaming machines.

The Options for Regulating Gambling report also backed legislative changes that would allow for developments such as the Tipperary casino. It said such a move would generate significant employment in construction and operation and could raise large amounts of revenue for the State.

An industry-sponsored report published nearly three years ago claimed that regulation could generate up to €280 million for the economy and create 13,000 new jobs by 2020. It said that most of the jobs would be in the area of information technology and software development.

The report also looked at the issue of licensing online betting and proposed the reinforcing of the ban on fixed-odds betting terminals, gaming machines that offer casino-style games such as blackjack and poker in bookies shops.

According to the Department of Justice, once new legislation is introduced those issued with gaming licences will be obliged to follow codes of conduct aimed at protecting vulnerable gamblers.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter is considering whether the proposals outlined in the Options report represent the best choices in terms of settling a revised regulatory architecture for gambling for the future.

A spokesman said the review was “being undertaken on an entirely objective basis to put in place a modern legal framework to regulate gambling, taking account of the various forms of gambling that exist both online and offline and having regard to the public interest. No decision will be made solely focusing on the promotion of an individual project.”

Richard Quirke: Cards on the table

THE TIPPERARY casino is the brainchild of developer Richard Quirke, a former garda from nearby Thurles.

While he has reportedly been in discussion with investors ahead of the application getting the green light, he remains the sole financial backer and has invested €40 million over the last four years.

Mr Quirke lives in Foxrock, Co Dublin and has a reputation for being media-shy. He confined himself to a terse statement yesterday in which he welcomed the decision. He said the move had advanced the implementation of his “vision and ambition” and said he had “instructed my design team and management to proceed to the next appropriate stages”.

He and his wife Ann are the directors of the Dublin Pool Juke Box Co Ltd. He owns a number of casinos. The company’s most recognisable brand is Dr Quirkey’s Good Time Emporium gaming arcade on O’Connell Street, with a branch in Phibsboro.

He has two sons, Wesley and Andrew. The casino project has also received the support, although not financially, of Horse Racing Ireland; racehorse trainer Aidan O’Brien; concert promoter Denis Desmond; and local Independent TD Michael Lowry. The influential Coolmore Stud also supports the idea – which it believes would transform the 800-acre site in Tipperary.