Sunday 25 September 2011

Shatter to block resort-style casinos

PLANS FOR a €460 million casino in Co Tipperary will be blocked by new legislation to regulate gambling being introduced Minister for Justice Alan Shatter.

The Minister announced yesterday that the Cabinet had agreed legislation that would rule out a casino on the scale of that planned at Two-Mile-Borris in the county.

In June, An Bord Pleanála granted permission for plans proposed by businessman Richard Quirke.

Mr Shatter said the new legislation, which will be ready in the spring, would allow modest-sized casinos but would prohibit large gambling resorts.

“We’ve made very specific decisions in the public interest,” the Minister said. “Those specific decisions include a decision that we will not be making provision for resort-style casinos.”

He added that the Government had agreed it was time for a comprehensive revision of gambling laws.

“The shortcomings in the current law, for example the absence of any regulation of online gambling, are exposing young people and other vulnerable persons to unacceptable risks,” he said.

“The exchequer is also being short-changed because of the absence of a taxation regime for online and other forms of remote gambling.

“The present laws are not adequate to deal even with aspects of gambling which they were intended to cover.

“For instance, attempts to curtail unlicensed private members’ clubs, including prosecutions, have been unsuccessful,” he added.

The Minister said that while no provision would be made for large resort-style casinos, there would be statutory provisions to permit modest-size casinos.

“The number will be limited and every application will be subjected to vigorous checks, including deep and extensive checks on the promoters. Only those promoters meeting high standards of personal and financial probity will be considered for a licence,” he added.

Mr Shatter accepted that while large casino developments could bring some employment benefits, the Government was concerned they could attract other activities that were not desirable and posed a risk to vulnerable people.

“It therefore concluded that, on balance, the social impact was likely to be negative.”

He also said the new legislation would prohibit fixed-odds betting terminals as their prohibition was in the public interest.

“The new legislation will deal with online and other forms of remote betting and gaming, as well as addressing loopholes. It will also take account of the blurring of the lines between betting and gambling, especially in the on-line operations.

“It will therefore cover both betting and gaming, under the collective term gambling.”

He said the current legislation was designed for a gambling sector that had changed beyond recognition.

“We need to catch up with changes in technology and in public attitudes and we need to do so without further delay.”

Mr Shatter said a new unified enforcement structure would be established and licensing and inspection duties would be brought together under his department.

“My priority is the protection of the public interest and, in particular, the protection of the vulnerable and their families. I feel this priority can best be met by what I would described as a joined-up set of controls.”

The Minister’s approach to the Tipperary casino was welcomed by An Taisce which had backed his view that there was no social benefit in a casino resort of this scale.

The Gaming and Leisure Association of Ireland also welcomed the Minister’s decision to regulate the gaming sector.

Irish Times

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