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'No threat to bingo halls or bingo nights' under new law, says Taoiseach

Around 50 bingo players were bussed to the Dáil yesterday to protest a bill that they say could see their winnings cut in half.

Bingo protest held outside the Dáil yesterday
Bingo protest held outside the Dáil yesterday
Image: @TJ_Politics

THERE IS NO threat to bingo halls under proposed new legislation, according to the Taoiseach. 

Yesterday, about 50 bingo players were bussed to the Dáil to protest a bill that they say could see their winnings cut in half.

Today, the Minister of State David Stanton will propose an amendment of the Gaming and Lotteries Bill that will see 25% of bingo proceeds go to charity, 25% go to bingo operators and 50% to prize-winners. The minister claims “agents were allowed by law to take up to 40% of the proceeds and charities frequently ended up with very little.”

However, the Save Our Bingo Facebook campaign group, that organised the protest which included a live game of bingo, said the move will result in the “closure of every bingo hall in Ireland”.

“If the legislation comes in there will be no bingo tomorrow, no one will play,” Jean, who plays in Cabra, told TheJournal.ie at the demonstration. “We buy the books out of our money that we have already been taxed on and now they want to tax us again.”

Speaking in the Dáil about the matter, the Taoiseach said he has received lots of queries from concerned bingo players in recent days. 

Telling the Dáil that he was a frequenter of bingo with his own grandmother, he moved to reassure people that the new law will not be a threat to bingo nights. 

“There is no threat to bingo halls or bingo nights,” he said, stating that the legislation sets out that 25% of bingo proceeds must go to charity – which he said bingo operators were meant to be doing all along. 

He said some large-scale bingo hall operators have been flouting the rules to date, giving no money to charity or only a “paltry sum”, he said. 

Some agents or bingo operators were allowed to take up to 40% of the proceeds and charities frequently ended up with very little, he said.

“I can’t see why anyone is against it,” he said, stating it is ensuring that charities get the money they deserve. 

Stanton has reassured the Taoiseach that no bingo halls are under threat from the law, and urged the House to vote in favour of the new legislation. 

A number of TDs such as Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin and Labour’s Joan Burton raised the issue, stating the there was big mobilisation outside Leinster House yesterday to hand in a petition to a member of government. 

Burton said she had to ask the Taoiseach what was going on in the government’s head, stating that no member of government came outside to meeting the people, many of whom were elderly, and accept the petition. 

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