Friday 17 January 2020

Bingo backdown: Government changes its new gambling laws after protests outside Dáil

Stock picture
Stock picture
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

The Government has been forced to change its new gambling laws to allow bingo hall operators pay bigger prize money.

The new legislation had proposed that prize money should not exceed 50pc of the proceeds from entry fees.

However, the Government was forced into an embarrassing climb down - and last night supported an Opposition amendment to the legislation that will allow prize money to be up to 75pc of takings.

The amendment was tabled by Sinn Féin TD Martin Kenny and supported by Independent TD Denis Naughten.

The vote came after Minister of State David Stanton had insisted he would not change the legislation. However, the Government ultimately supported Mr Kenny’s amendment.

The key aim of the legislation was to ensure bingo operators, which are operating on behalf charities, give a minimum of 25pc of their proceeds to the charitable organisations. The original legislation stated that a maximum of 25pc of the takings would go to the operator and 50pc could be paid out in prize money.

Junior Justice Minister David Stanton. Picture: Collins
Junior Justice Minister David Stanton. Picture: Collins

A protest group called ‘Save Our Bingo’ protested outside Leinster House on Tuesday morning and handed in a petition to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar asking him to change the legislation.

Labour Party TD Joan Burton presented the Taoiseach with the petition during a Dáil debate on Wednesday afternoon.

The demonstrators argued that the new law would significantly reduce prize money and impact on rollover jackpots.

Speaking in the Dáil ahead of the vote, the Taoiseach said he had attended his local bingo “on the odd Sunday night in recent times” and insisted there was no threat to the pastime enjoyed by thousands of people around the country.

“I am happy to confirm once again there is no threat to bingo halls or bingo nights,” he said.

“The change in the law is to require operators to give 25pc of the money to charities, as they are supposed to. There are some large, profitable and commercial bingo halls that have not been giving any money to charity at all or that have only been giving paltry sums,” he added.

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