Bookies get up to €48k over loss of pitches

Three bookmakers have been awarded between €23,000 and €48,000 by the High Court arising out of the loss of their betting ring pitch positions at Dundalk racecourse.

The dispute arose following the €35m redevelopment of the stadium in 2007 as an all-weather track.

Yesterday Mr Justice Gerard Hogan awarded €48,376 to Newry-based bookie Patrick O’Hare and €41,484 to John Hughes, a prominent racing commentator on British TV. Earlier this month, he awarded €23,929 to Francis Hyland, an officer of the bookies’ representative body, the Irish National Bookmakers Association.

They represent three test cases on behalf of around 30 bookies who sued Dundalk Racing (1999) Ltd, trading as Dundalk Stadium for breach of contract. The other cases are on hold pending a possible appeal of the awards.

The bookies claimed Dundalk Racing breached their contracts under national rules by demanding an €8,000 capital contribution from each of them towards the redevelopment of the venue before they could return to do business from what had been their established bookie slotsat the racecourse, or pitches as they are known.

Dundalk Racing argued that as it was a new racecourse, and not registered until August 2007, seeking a contribution when it did was not governed by national pitch rules.

Mr Justice Hogan found the re-opened stadium did not amount to a new racecourse for the purpose of the pitch rules and such a contribution could not be exacted from those bookies with established seniority.

The bookies had claimed hundreds of thousands in lost profits as a result of being unable to operate but the judge said he would only allow them recover full losses sustained in the first 12 months from when the stadium re-opened in 2007.

He applied an an 80% reduction for subsequent years because of their failure to mitigate the loss by taking up the pitches. In doing so, he was trying to reflect “the fact there was continuing fault on both sides”.

He further reduced Mr Hughes’ damages by 20% because he was one of a number of people who participated in an illegal boycott of the re-opened stadium.


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