Plans to build a new mega-casino in Dublin have been dealt a blow after the two parties behind the project were denied permission.
Hammerson, a property specialist in the UK, and Irish Life, an insurance firm on the Emerald Isle, had joined forces to present the possibility of a new 24-hour casino – to be opened in the Ilac Shopping Centre in the Republic’s capital – to planning officials.
The duo planned to re-imagine a retail unit, formerly home to the Jack & Jones clothing brand, as a two-storey casino property and ‘family’ entertainment centre.
However, Dublin Council has rejected the claim after admitting ‘serious concerns’ that a casino wouldn’t fit the environment in which it was being proposed. “There are serious concerns that permitting a casino at this location would be setting a precedent for such a non-retail use within Category 1-designated streets, the primary shopping streets in the city centre,” a statement from officials read.
With retail income at a considerable low currently, the applicants claimed that a casino would help to boost revenue in the shopping centre, increase footfall – when allowed – and enable the council to collect more tax income, however An Bord Pleanála, an independent planning organisation presiding over their appeal, claimed they could not justify the use of a retail unit in this way.
Dublin already has a thriving casino scene, while players are free to enjoy dozens of online casinos that are free to operate in the city.
Ireland Poised for Major Gambling Law Reform
For so long a ‘soft’ touch when it comes to gambling regulation, it looks increasingly likely that 2021 will be the year that all changes.
The Irish government wants to have an independent regulator in place by the autumn, and it would be their task to being modernising a set of laws that haven’t been changed since the 1950s – hence the boom in online casino gaming and sports betting in the country, including a reported 65% increase in online gambling in 2020.
However, there is still likely to be a delay in rolling out gambling reform prior to 2022 – a situation that one addiction counsellor described as being ‘a bit like the cart before the horse.’
The expectation is that the new regulator will oversee a complete rethink of gambling laws in Ireland, with specific changes relating to online activities and affordability checks – similar to those proposed in the UK – possible options.
It seems a certainty that casino operators will pay a fee into a ‘social fund’ set up to help pay for treatment and research into problem gambling, while operators may find that they are banned from advertising their products before the 9pm watershed – currently, there are no such limitations in place.
The ball has already been set into motion, with the new Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Act 2019 coming into being on December 1 of that year. This ensured that all forms of betting – including the lottery – require a minimum age of 18 to play, while prospective gambling operators also have a host of new boxes to tick in satisfying their licence applications.