Punters owed thousands as bookie leaves course early
AN ERRANT bookie made an abrupt exit from Listowel Races over the weekend, owing thousands of euro to disgruntled punters.
The man, who is understood to be from Killarney, was operating on-course and is said to have "run out of money" before the last race.
Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) has confirmed an investigation is under way into the non-payment of winning bets by one on-course bookmaker following the Listowel race meeting.
The racing authority said Ger 'Dixie' Dalton didn't price-up the final race on Saturday having reportedly run out of money. He left unpaid and disgruntled punters to form a lengthy queue outside the HRI's levy office.
HRI's betting division manager Paul Finegan said it was "unprecedented" to have so many punters not being paid out on the day.
"He turned up at the levy office in Listowel and explained that he had run out of cash and could not pay out on the bets he had taken," Mr Finegan told the Irish Independent.
"They told him to send the punters to the betting division office to fill out a course complaint form. He paid out to some but to others he simply couldn't."
Mr Finegan also confirmed that since last Saturday HRI has not been able to make contact with Mr Dalton.
"We have extensive powers under legislation where we can revoke a bookmaker's licence when they fail to pay out on a bet but we have to go through due process."
Although Mr Dalton did not have a "good pitch" in the bookmakers' ring, large queues were said to have been forming at his stand.
At one point in his final betting race on Saturday, Mr Dalton went 13/8, when 11/8 was generally the best price in the ring on eventual winner Laughing Boy.
Mr Finegan said: "I understand how the punters feel because they are left in limbo at the moment.
"Our powers under the legislation have always been ample because a bookmaker does not want to lose his livelihood and it's in his interests to sort this out.
"HRI currently hold a small deposit (€3,200) which covers levy and pitch fees but there is nothing to cover punters' losses -- it is difficult to put a figure on how much a bookmaker needs to have to cover such an eventuality but that situation will now come under review."
He added: "This is the first instance of this in at least 20 years and the next step will be to get in touch with the bookmaker and try to get to the bottom of this and see if we can secure payment for punters. However, it is still up in the air whether or not punters will get paid."