Rock Bingo defends use of Longford club licence

THE operators of Cork’s first ‘super’ bingo hall have defended their use of Longford rugby club’s lottery licence to stage bingo sessions on Leeside.

They also confirmed that no money has yet been paid to beneficiary partners.

Speaking ahead of a crucial High Court hearing tomorrow, Rock Bingo’s Dave Barber last night insisted they are operating lawfully despite Garda raids on every bingo night since opening on New Year’s Day.

“In our opinion there is no reason why we should be singled out for these visits as we are operating fully according to the law,” he said.

Mr Justice Frank Clark, the High Court judge who, before Christmas declared the venture lawful, is due to deliver his full judgment tomorrow.

However, the state may raise Rock Bingo’s use of the “outside licence” — lottery licences obtained outside the Garda district in which they are used.

Gardaí obtained search warrants to raid the Togher hall on each of its four bingo nights since January 1.

As part of the legislation surrounding such operations, a licence-holding charity or non-profit organisation must apply to the courts for a lottery licence, and must have an operator to run a venue.

Rock Bingo has held six bingo nights — the first two in November were operated on behalf of Cork’s Mercy Hospital Foundation.

Mr Barber said the foundation withdrew its licence as a result of “pressure from outside sources”.

He said the Irish Heart Foundation had agreed to become a beneficiary partner but withdrew due to “adverse publicity from the Garda searches”.

Attempts to strike deals with Marymount and St Luke’s also failed.

“We found ourselves at the beginning of December with the permission of the High Court to open but without valid licence holding beneficiary partners,” Mr Barber said.

Longford Rugby Football Club has a valid licence and were happy to come on board, he added.

“As a Cork family we are extremely disappointed that we could not secure agreements with our local favoured Cork charities due to outside interference and pressure,” he said.

“This is money that should be benefiting local worthy causes but until we can secure these agreements this will not be possible. To remain viable we must drive forward at this stage. The delays to date have had a huge detrimental financial effect on our business.”

Mr Barber said no money has been paid out to the beneficiary partners yet because it is calculated on a cumulative basis.

“Hopefully when we are fully operational and without interference the beneficiary partners will receive significant funds over time,” he said. “We hope that this week’s High Court hearing will finalise these matters so that we can go about our business without interference and be treated the same as other organisations operating bingo throughout the city and country.”

Talks with the Jack & Jill Foundation are at an advanced stage and court hearings for licence applications from other local charities have been adjourned until April.

The operation of the 1,000-seat bingo venue has been the subject of a legal battle since attempts were made to launch it last year.

In his ruling last month, Mr Justice Clarke ruled the bingo enterprise was lawful but dismissed the company’s arguments that Togher-based Garda Superintendent Charles Barry, who sought warrants to carry out the raids, was guilty of misfeasance (improper execution of a lawful act) in public office.

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