Cork Bingo Hall Saga Continues

In Ireland bingo is almost as popular as it is in Great Britain. Online bingo has been a big hit in Ireland especially after the imposition of a smoking ban in 2004. Since online bingo and other forms of online gambling are legal in Ireland it is very easy for players to find a place to play. There are online bingo sites that were created exclusively for Irish players. Bingo does not usually generate controversy but in the case of a Cork bingo hall a long bitter legal battle is taking place in the courts.

It all started last December when the Rock bingo hall in Cork was scheduled to open. Fifteen minutes before the games were to begin police showed up with a search warrant and confiscated documents and bingo tickets making it impossible for the games to proceed. The harassment continued and escalated in January with a series of four back to back raids. James Barber, the proprietor of the Rock bingo hall, says the relentless harassment has affected the reputation and profitability of his business. The series of raids took place on January 1, 4, 6, and 8. Barber recently won the legal right to operate the hall and has commenced legal action against the government. Barber’s company spent over a million dollars remodeling the hall.

Barber says he is not seeking financial gain but vindication of his good name in the community. Barber hired a top Barrister to represent him. Senior Counsel (SC) Dermot Gleeson was Ireland’s leading Barrister in the 1980’s and 90’s. Gleeson asked Barber what effect the raids have had on him. Barber responded and stated “I have been hurt and damaged. I am a retired person, my friends and acquaintances have stood by me. The real damage is the damage to me relative to charitable associations. I thought they would have more or less queued up to come on board. Marymount (a local charity) were — if you like — our anchor tenant. They were absolutely delighted at the idea of using a designated bingo hall but they withdrew totally having received a phone call.”

The superintendent who conducted the raids contends that he was only following the advice of the attorney general. Superintendent Charles Barry said he was told the bingo hall was trading without a license. Gleeson told the court that Barry had frightened every Cork charity” away from Rock Bingo and described the raids as “totally unprecedented” and “farcically disproportionate.” Gleeson asked Barry if he wanted to apologize to Barber for all the trouble he had caused but Barry used the timeworn excuse that he was just following orders.

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