Friday 24 November 2017

It's a 'full house' at €700,000 bingo hall despite garda raid

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

SEVENTY-five proved the lucky number last night not just for bingo punters but for the backers of a €700,000 Irish entertainment complex.

It was the first number drawn at the rescheduled opening night of the 1,000 seat Cork bingo complex - just 48 hours after a garda raid had put the entire project in doubt.

Over 250 bingo fans gathered by 7pm to sample the Rock Bingo experience in Togher -- and they were very impressed.

Neither the garda raid nor a minor electrical gremlin over the lights could spoil the opening party last night.

"If the guards come, we'll all hide," bingo caller John Purcell joked.

For bingo veterans, the cushioned seats, heated auditorium, computerised playing tables and on-site catering represented a radical contrast to the chilly old parish bingo halls they were used to.

"God but isn't it classy. We were here last Tuesday night and we wanted to come back and play on the opening night," Angela Collins from Greenmount said.

Gardai had arrived at the venue one hour before Tuesday's planned opening -- and confiscated all the bingo books on foot of a District Court warrant.

"I think there is room for them all -- there's great interest in bingo. And it's really lovely here," Ethel said.

Orla Kearney from Crossbarry regularly attends bingo at venues around Cork -- and predicted that the new facility will quickly garner a loyal following.

Last night, Omega Leisure/Rock Bingo Club directors, James and Dave Barber, expressed relief that the venture was finally up and running after repeated legal wrangles.

"We're very proud of what we've developed here -- and we believe that people will enjoy it. We believe its one of the best venues of its kind in the country," Dave told the Irish Independent.

The opening night only took place after Omega/Rock Bingo secured an interim High Court order on Wednesday which prevented any interference with the venture's future operations.

The order will be re-examined at a High Court sitting today.

The leisure firm had complained to the High Court that Togher-based Supt Charles Barry operated what they termed "a systematic policy" to ensure gambling does not take place locally.

The giant bingo complex was developed in the old Waters Glass factory in Deanrock in Togher.

The purpose-designed interior can cater for 1,000 customers -- and offers high-tech bingo facilities as well as on-site catering and a heated auditorium.

In an agreement with the Mercy Hospital Foundation (MHF), up to 40pc of the proceeds from evenings will go to the charity.

The matter ended up before the High Court after Omega/Rock Bingo appealed an earlier District Court license refusal to the Circuit Court.

A number of groups had objected to the company's plans including St Finbarr's GAA Club, Ballyphehane Community Association and the SAMA's Wilton complex.

Irish Independent

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