Bingo ruled out over charities’ concerns

A DISTRICT court judge has refused to grant a licence for a commercially run bingo hall in Cork which would have given 10% of its proceeds to charities.

Superintendent Charles Barry described the proposal as being like a big supermarket swallowing up smaller local shops.

“I am satisfied there is a sufficient number [of bingo nights] operating to enable me to refuse this application,” said Judge Leo Malone.

Harry McCullogh, solicitor, brought the application on behalf of the charity St Augustine’s Global Foundation.

If successful, St Augustine’s would have used a new commercial bingo company, Omega Leisure Ltd, trading as Rock Bingo, as its agent. It has planning permission to operate the former Waters Munster Glass premises in Togher as a customised bingo venue, available to all charities licensed for bingo.

Mr McCullogh indicated that yesterday’s refusal would be appealed to Cork Circuit Court.

Grounds for objection relate firstly to the character of those who would run the operation. None of yesterday’s objectors at Cork District Court had any objection on that basis. It was agreed by all parties, including the objectors, that the managing director of Omega, James Barber, was a man of impeccable character.

Objections were made only on the basis that the area in which Rock Bingo would operate was already well catered for in terms of the number of bingo nights being operated by sports, community and charitable groups.

“Many charitable organisations depend on bingo as a significant part of their income,” Supt Barry told the court.

“This is like a big supermarket coming in to swallow up the local shops. They will be closed down by it.

“The money off the local bingo nights at the moment goes back to penny dinners or the elderly people. The majority of the profit goes back to the local community and stays in the local community.

“As superintendent, should I be concerned that this big commercial organisation is going to come in, and out of €1 spent in Rock Bingo 10c will go to charity, 50c will go to prizes and 40c will go to Rock Bingo? If the legislature wanted commercial bingo, they should have legislated for it. This is a way of circumventing the law. That is my concern.”

The superintendent characterised the application by Nicholas Condon of St Augustine’s Global Foundation charity as “a Trojan horse allowing Mr Barber to operate”.

In his application for a lottery licence yesterday, Mr Condon said: “We are a charity, and there are other charities, and we are seeking funds in a difficult environment. There are so many things we can do, we have to rely on commercial organisations in many ways to help us to raise funds… We believed they [the Barber family] are people of probity and good stewardship.”

In relation to the 40% of proceeds going to Rock, it was pointed out that this would be used to operate and promote the business, in which more than 30 people would be employed.

Objectors included the St Finbarr’s GAA club, Ballyphehane community association and the community centre at the Society of African Missions in Wilton.

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