An application for a gaming licence for an arcade in Mitchelstown has been dismissed in court - because of a 35-year-old by-law that specifically bans such businesses in the Co Cork town.
Perks Mitchelstown Ltd applied for a gaming licence to the former Weavers Bar on Lower Cork Street, having received planning permission last year to change the use of the premises to an amusement arcade.
This was met with opposition from a number of locals, who came together as ‘The Concerned Citizens of Mitchelstown’ to object to the proposals.
Their appeal against the granting of planning permission was unsuccessful when An Bord Pleanála upheld the decision on the grounds that issues arising from the Gaming and Lotteries Act, and concerns relating to gambling and addiction, are not planning matters.
Both Perks and objectors made submissions to Judge John King in Mallow District Court.
Objectors highlighted a resolution under Section 13 of the Gaming and Lotteries Act, 1956 which was passed by Cork Council in 1984 and banned gaming operations specifically in Mitchelstown.
Solicitor, Daithí Ó Donnabháin, representing Perks, challenged this resolution in court yesterday.
Subsection 13.4 of the act states: “A local authority on passing a resolution shall cause notice of the fact to be published in at least two newspapers circulating in the area to which the resolution relates and shall as soon as maybe send a copy of the resolution to the Minister.”
Mr Ó Donnabháin said there was no record that the local authority notified the Minister for Justice at the time of the passing of the resolution.
However, Judge King said he had before him a certificate of the resolution that was passed, and said that Section 13.4 does not stipulate what the consequences of non-compliance with those specific conditions.
He said the condition at the centre of Perk’s submission is a publication matter only, and that in his view even non-compliance with this does not invalidate the entire resolution.
Judge King said therefore in the circumstances he does not have jurisdiction to grant the application, and it was dismissed.
The resolution passed 35 years ago came following objections in Mitchelstown to a proposed arcade in the town.
In January 1984, the Cork Examiner reported how a Mr Pasquelina Matassa appealed a decision to reject his application for a gaming licence application for a Mitchelstown arcade.
Mr Matassa’s solicitor told Kanturk District Court that the Council planned to bring about by-laws that “would mean in effect that no further gaming licences would be given out in Mitchelstown”.
The appeal was rejected, and on January 17, 1984, the Cork Examiner reported that the County Council had “revoked the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 in respect of the town of Mitchelstown in which no gaming operations will now be permitted".
Speaking outside the court after the application was dismissed, Martin Lane of the Concerned Citizens of Mitchelstown group said he hopes the message has gotten across that the town does not want such operations:
“I'm absolutely delighted for the up and coming generation of youth in Mitchelstown, that this would not be planted right in the middle of our town where it would become a normal, everyday thing for our children to see a casino while their mothers and fathers are taking them up to the butcher, to the bakers, to the local shop."
“A lot of this is all about branding, and when you brand these things into children's minds at an early age, they end up gambling. We have it in Mitchelstown already.
"They come down from the schools to be met with three different bookies, and now they wanted to put a casino right into their faces as well.
"As a parent in Mitchelstown, and as a friend of a lot of parents in Mitchelstown, I'm absolutely thrilled and delighted, as are all our people are in the Concerned Citizens of Mitchelstown Group who got together to try and oppose this initially. Everyone is over the moon."
In the last few weeks we've had a few shops close down in Mitchelstown, but to say that a business like this is good for any town is absolutely ridiculous in my mind. All it does is it takes money out of the town.
"I'm involved in parents councils and things like that and we go around the town looking for sponsorship. We get sponsorship from all the local businesses.
"I have yet to see any of these major bookmakers or any of them with their names on the local rugby, soccer, or football shirts. I don't ever see them sponsoring anything. All they do is take take take, and I'm just delighted that we have one less to deal with,” he said.
Mr Lane also hit out at an article that appeared in local media which branded opposition to the arcade as hypocritical, given the number of club lottos and other similar fundraisers in the town:
“There was an accusation that Mitchelstown was built on the proceeds of gambling, i.e there was an insinuation that any club or organisation that ran any sort of a lottery or anything like that were actually building their organisations on the proceeds the gambling, which is a mind-boggling accusation to foist on your local community.
"We all know that if you go into any of the local bookmakers or you go into a casino that all that money is taken out of the town, barring the few people that are working there, which these days is a fairly low turnover of people."