Paddy Power may enter the casino market

Betting group Paddy Power has confirmed it will examine the possibility of entering the casino market in Ireland once the Government publishes long-awaited legislation to revamp existing laws governing the sector.

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern has signalled that he will soon move to introduce new laws, describing the current rules that have enabled private member clubs to operate as casinos as „way past their sell-by date“.

The government has not yet acted on a year-old report by the inter-departmental Casino Regulation Committee, which was headed by barrister Michael McGrath.

While casinos are illegal under the 1956 Gaming and Lotteries Act, private members‘ clubs can circumvent the rule by ensuring patrons sign up before they can start gambling.

That has prompted investors such as Dermot Desmond to gain a toe-hold in the market. He spent €5.5m on his Dublin-based Sporting Emporium — a 13,000 square-feet premises that opened in 2005.

Current legislation is perceived by those currently operating in the sector to be painfully outdated and many have adopted an industry voluntary code of conduct.

Amongst the legislative clauses in Ireland outlawing such gambling is that the prohibition exists to „prevent the evil of tempting poor people to part with their limited resources in the remote expectation of gaining substantial rewards“.

A Paddy Power spokesman said that the group’s interest in operating casinos would be predicated on the assumption that any new legislation introduced is „sensible“.

Merrion Stockbrokers analyst Gavin Kelleher said that with Paddy Power’s strong brand identity in Ireland, it would make sense for it to examine the potential of casinos.