Wednesday 16 October 2019

Amusement arcade owners - including Rosanna Davison's father-in-law - challenge refusal to grant gaming licenses

Rosanna Davison and husband Wes Quirke
Rosanna Davison and husband Wes Quirke

A group of amusement arcade owners, including Rosanna Davison’s multi-millionaire father-in-law Richard Quirke, have pooled resources to challenge a Dublin District Court Judge’s refusal to grant them gaming licenses on the basis his court did not have power to do so.

Circuit Court President Mr Justice Raymond Groarke, faced with a list of appeals against the District Court’s decisions, decided Thursday he would consider referring a Case Stated to the Court of Appeal to rule on whether or not the lower court has jurisdiction to grant gaming licenses.

A Case Stated consists of a written statement of facts submitted to a higher court for its binding opinion on a question of law or jurisdiction, in these cases the decision of District Court Judge Michael Coghlan that he does not have power to grant the licenses.

Barrister Dorothy Collins, counsel for Expo, The Square, Tallaght, and almost a dozen other arcade-owning companies including Dr Quirkeys Emporium in Dublin’s O’Connell Street, told Judge Groarke today that it was proposed to bring two test appeals challenging the District Court rulings.

Dr Quirkey’s amusement arcade
Dr Quirkey’s amusement arcade

Kerry Jane Morgan, counsel for the second company, Jenstar Investments Limited, Old Nangor Road, Clondalkin, said a major issue in the appeals currently before the Circuit Civil Court was whether or not alleged legal impediments to the granting of the gaming licenses could be overturned on the supremacy of EU law.

Dublin City Council adopted the 1956 Gaming and Lotteries Act which allowed the granting of gaming licenses but, on rescinding this decision under 1986 legislation, arcades continued to trade on foot of Amusement Permits issued by the Revenue Commissioners for each “one-armed-bandit” or similar amusement machine.

Revenue afterwards inspected amusement premises annually and sometimes twice a year until June last year when licenses were reviewed, leading to 21 Day Warning letters being issued to the various arcade-owning companies telling them Revenue considered the machines  to be gaming machines and not items of amusement. 

The decision meant that the operation of the gaming machines, as defined by Revenue, was illegal and required a gaming license.

The taxman’s new regime applied to thousands of machines which Revenue now had a right to seize and lifted 300 of them from arcades and casinos since September last, renting special warehousing facilities in which to store them.  A license fee for an amusement machine is €125. For a gaming machine it can be up to €700 and in some premises there are up to 500.

When Judge Groarke said he would consider a Case Stated to the Court of Appeal, Ms Collins and Ms Morgan, and Constance Cassidy SC, for the Licensed Gaming Association of Ireland, agreed to provide legal submissions.  Rebutting submissions are to be considered and lodged by Dublin City Council and South Dublin County Council.

The Licensed Gaming Association of Ireland represents already legally licensed casinos in a number of counties including Wicklow and Donegal.

The appellants include Dublin Games Club, Amiens Street, Dublin 1; Classic Snooker Limited, Ballygall Road West, Finglas;  Coalquay Leisure Limited, Rathmines Road and Lower Camden Street; Empire Amusements, Burgh Quay; Paul O’Brien and others, Santry and Tallaght;  Dublin Pool and Dukebox Company, Quirkeys, O’Connell Street and Phibsboro Road; D Cafolla, Lower O’Connell Street; Automatic Amusements, Lower Dorset Street; Starville Promotions, Eden Quay; Jenstar Investments, Old Nangor Road, Clondalkin; Sports Arena Ltd, Barneys, Marlborough Street, and Newry Leisure Ltd, Upper Dorset Street.

The appeals are to be mentioned again in the Circuit Civil Court prior to consideration on the question of a Case Stated.

Richard Quirke
Richard Quirke

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