Bingo players descend on the Dáil to protest new gambling laws


Michael Staines
Michael Staines

10.15 3 Dec 2019


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Bingo players have descended on Dáil Éireann to protest against new gambling laws they say will threaten the future of the game in Ireland.

Players from bingo halls up and down the country are voicing their anger at plans to limit bingo winnings to 50% of a hall’s takings each night.

The ‘Save Our Bingo’ campaign is warning that the plan will force halls right around Ireland to close their doors.

Dubliner Rose Brennan said she will be left with nothing to do if her local hall closes.

“I don’t drink; I don’t take drugs so bingo is my outlet now and it is part of my life,” she said.

“I have my bingo family friends here and basically if they cut the pay, we are not going to have a bingo hall.

“We’ll just have to sit in our houses and do nothing.”

The protesters have begun a game of live bingo outside Leinster House and they are calling on the Taoiseach to come out and join them for a game.

Bingo winnings are current limited to 80% of a halls takings but the Gambling and Lotteries Bill will cut that to 50%.

70-year-old Bernie Fitzpatrick said that will put most players off coming and drive the industry into the ground.

“I am an aul granny of 13 kids and there is always kids running around my place,” she said.

“I go to bingo a couple of times a week to get a break. It’s harmless fun and I am happy to pay a few Euro for a night out and am delighted when I win.

“I won €250 there just at the weekend and I have a few bob to get the grandkids a selection box and a hat and scarf for Christmas.

“The changes in the law will lessen my chances of winning big money like that, so I won’t be going. I will really miss my friends and will be stuck with the kids now.”

Gambling Minister of State at the Department of Justice, David Stanton, speaking at the Seminar on Future Licensing and Regulation of Gambling in Ireland at Farmleigh House, 15-05-2019. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

As the protest was getting underway, the Minister of State with responsibility for gambling policy David Stanton said he would not be changing the legislation.

In a statement, he said the legislation was a “modest proposal” that would ensure that one quarter of bingo night proceeds go to charity.

He said bingo operators had begun acting as agents for charities over the years and in some cases ended up taking in the lion’s share of the proceeds.

“I am proposing that a maximum of 25% of proceeds can go to bingo operators while a minimum of 25% would go to charity and 50% would go to prize-winners,” he said.

“I don’t accept that these changes will stop anyone playing bingo – a game which is renowned for its social appeal.

“Given its social appeal, people do not play bingo based solely on the prize level. If they did, they would likely gamble elsewhere.

“It will simply ensure that the charitable purposes, such as sports clubs, school renovations etc. will benefit as intended.”


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