Casinos will be closed under new legislation

Casinos will be closed in the State under plans being prepared by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Michael McDowell.

Currently nearly two dozen casinos are operating as members-only clubs in Dublin alone, he said yesterday.

Under the 1956 Gaming and Lotteries Act, gambling is illegal in the State unless it is a game of chance, or partly a game of chance.

Casinos can be used by organised crime as a „front“ for money-laundering, although the Minister said he had no evidence that any Irish casino is being used in this way. Up to now, gardaí have struggled to get prosecutions against casinos because they have been unable to prove „beyond reasonable doubt“ that casino games, such as roulette and blackjack, breach the gaming legislation by offering an advantage to the casino over the gambler.

„I have concerns about the enforceability of the present law as it applies to these type of operations,“ Mr McDowell said at the publication of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2006.

The gaming restrictions would be added to the legislation during its Committee Stage debate in the Dáil following Cabinet approval in a few weeks‘ time.

The changes would not interfere with private card games, or fund-raising „poker drives“ games run by clubs and associations, he said.

Though numerous forms of gambling are flourishing in the State, the Minister said he believed that casinos „are more damaging to society than positive“.

„I honestly do not believe that they add anything to the good of life in Ireland. If people want to go to places where they are available then they can do so,“ he said.

Under the new legislation, the minimum stake on slot machines will be set at 50 cent, while the maximum prize possible from them will be €30.

Meanwhile, the legislation will create a Legal Services Ombudsman to oversee the handling by the Law Society and Bar Council of complaints against barristers and solicitors.

The new ombudsman would be able to review all inquiries on foot of complaints, examine a random number of investigations by both bodies annually, and be able to order the Law Society to carry out a new probe if he/she is not satisfied that the complaint has been properly investigated.

Though self-regulation of both professions has generally worked well, the Minister said they must „achieve the highest standards of professional integrity for the protection of clients“.

„There is a public interest in ensuring a high level of confidence in the manner the professions regulate their affairs,“ he said.

Praising both professions for their „new sense of realism“, Mr McDowell said his changes would ensure that both adapt to a rapidly-changing world.

Shop tenants and landlords will be granted extra freedoms to agree tenancy agreements without being covered by the Landlord and Tenant (Amendment) Act 1980, provided that the tenant gets legal advice first.

„It is intended to allow greater flexibility than at present in the arrangements which business landlords and tenants choose to make with each other,“ he said, adding that office lets are currently exempt from the 1980 legislation.

Mr McDowell also plans that judges will be able to retire with some pension after just two years on the bench, rather than the five years that are necessary now.

These proposals are not connected in any way with the existing Government effort to impeach Judge Brian Curtin, Mr McDowell added.