HORSE RACING Ireland intends to adopt a “wait-and-see” attitude towards plans for building a new racecourse as part of a €460 million casino project in north Tipperary. But its chief executive admitted yesterday the idea raises some issues for horse racing’s ruling body.
North Tipperary County Council has approved plans for the controversial project which includes a 6,000-square metre casino and a 500-bedroom hotel.
Also included is a design for a new racecourse near the village of Two-Mile-Borris and on Monday the project spokesman, Richard Quirke, said that getting the green light to proceed with a new track would result in the closing of Thurles racecourse.
HRI met representatives of the new business venture last year and there are plans to meet again soon to discuss the project. HRI’s chief executive Brian Kavanagh said yesterday he was supportive of the plan’s ambitions.
“We met with them last year and you would have to be impressed with the proposal and its ambition. They are not looking for funding and overall you would have to be supportive when someone comes to you in such circumstances wanting to build a racecourse as was proposed to us,” he said.
“We would hope to sit down with them again but it does raise a lot of issues. We have to be supportive of such ambition but we will see what happens,” Kavanagh added.
HRI has been under serious pressure in the past couple of years due to the financial crisis and prize money levels have been slashed.
Fixtures have also been cut. Matters such as the design of any future new track could also be a subject of concern for the body.
Several high-profile racing figures have publicly supported the new project including trainers Aidan O’Brien and Edward O’Grady.
The influential Coolmore Stud also supports the idea which would transform an 800-acre site in Tipperary.
A three-year building programme has been proposed with 1,000 construction jobs created in that period. Up to 2,000 permanent jobs have been predicted once construction has finished.
The heritage body, An Taisce, objected to the casino proposal and could yet appeal the county council’s approval to An Bord Pleanala.
A change to the gaming laws would also be required for the proposed new casino to get a licence and the results of a government review on those laws is expected soon.
The Tipperary venue is the brainchild of former garda Richard Quirke, whose gaming interests include the Dr Quirkey Good Time Emporium on O’Connell Street in Dublin.
Independent TD Michael Lowry has been a strong supporter of the idea and has described it as “refreshing and positive news in a time of gloom”.