Ireland’s Revenue Declares War on Dublin’s Illegal Casinos

Ireland’s Revenue has issued enforcement letters to a number of illegally operating casino facilities across Dublin giving them 21 days to remove gambling machines from their premises, The Times reported earlier this week.

News about the government agency launching a crackdown against illegal operations arrived after an investigation by The Times showed that a number of Dublin-based arcades have used their licenses to operate gambling machines, thus breaching a 1988 citywide ban on the latter devices.

Under the long-standing prohibition, no licenses for gambling machines can be issued to facilities located within city limits. However, The Times reported last month that a number of arcade facilities are violating that ban and are using their arcade machine licenses to operate gambling machines.

According to Revenue definitions, arcade/amusement machines are games that gives players the chance to win no more than an opportunity to play again or a non-monetary prize the value of which is worth no more than €7. The Times found that the gambling machines at some of the arcade premises across Dublin offered players the opportunity to wager up to €2,500 on casino-style games such as video poker, roulette, and blackjack. Such premises now have 21 days to remove all gambling machines or face seizure of those.

Industry Responds to the Looming Crackdown

The Irish Amusement Trades Association (IATA), which represents both licensed and unlicensed arcades, has responded quickly to the pending crackdown, saying that it was considering legal actions against Revenue’s ruling. The association has long been lobbying for the ban on casino-style gambling in Dublin to be lifted.

IATA General Secretary John Roche has previously said that Ireland’s current gambling laws are archaic and are violating directives of the European Union in relation to the provision of gambling services across member states. Ireland’s gambling industry is regulated under the Gaming and Lotteries Act which took effect back in 1956.

Irish lawmakers have been working for years on a piece of legislation that would replace the obsolete regulations, but not much progress has been made so far.

A Revenue spokeswoman has told The Times than any operator of gambling machines without the necessary license or using an arcades license to operate gambling machines would have their machines seized and would be prosecuted. IATA maintains that they can face down the taxman in court and even win, citing recent European Court of Justice rulings, under which any laws restricting gambling to certain areas in a given country should be reviewed if they are applied properly.

According to a 2015 study by Gaming and Leisure Association Ireland the issuance of arcade licenses is cheaper than of gambling machine ones and by favoring the former, the country is thus losing revenue. The study also said that of all 7,559 arcade licenses issued, around 5,000 were actually used for gambling machines that offered cash prizes.

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