Sunday 8 December 2019

Objectors 'over the moon' as judge refuses gaming licence application

35-year-old bye-law that bans gaming operations in town cited in court

The former Weavers Bar in Mitchelstown for which Perks Michelstowne Ltd had applied for a gaming licence. It was refused at Mallow District Court
The former Weavers Bar in Mitchelstown for which Perks Michelstowne Ltd had applied for a gaming licence. It was refused at Mallow District Court

Bill Browne

Objectors to the development of a controversial amusement arcade in Mitchelstown have welcomed a district court decision not to grant it a gaming licence due to a 35-year-old by-law prohibiting gaming operations in the town.

In late 2017 a planning application was lodged with Cork County Council in the name of Perks Promotions Mitchelstown Ltd for the arcade at the vacant former Weavers Bar on Cork Street.

It prompted much disquiet, with local businessman Martin Lane starting an online petition against the plan, which eventually garnered almost 1,500 signatures. 

Mr Lane also submitted one of three submissions against the plan under the title 'Concerned Citizens of Mitchelstown'. Despite the observations, planners ruled in favour of the plan and in May of last year an appeal was lodged with An Bord Pleanála - submitted by the 'Concerned Citizens of Mitchelstown' care of its chairman Mr Lane - against the decision. 

They contended that Cork County Council should not have granted permission for the proposed arcade as "part III of the Gaming and Lotteries Act of 1956 does not apply to Mitchelstown" as per a resolution passed by the authority in 1984. 

However, the appeals board upheld the council's decision on the grounds that issues arising from the Gaming and Lotteries Act, and concerns relating to gambling and addiction, were not planning matters. 

The application for the gaming licence came before Judge John King at last Thursday's sitting of Mallow District Court. Solicitor Daithí Ó Donnabháin, representing Perks Promotions Mitchelstown Ltd, challenged a resolution highlighted by objectors 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. 

Subsection 13.4 of the act states that: '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 the consequences of non-compliance with those specific conditions. 

He said the condition at the centre of Perks 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 did not have jurisdiction to grant the application, and it was dismissed.

Speaking outside the court after the application was dismissed, Martin Lane said he hoped the message had gone out 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," said Mr Lane.

"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. 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," he added.

The Corkman attempted on multiple occasions to contact a representative from Perks to ask if they would be appealing the decision but had received no reply at time of going to press.