What Does the longer term Hold for personal Members’ Clubs in Ireland?
On Monday it had been announced that the roulette wheels at Fitzwilliam Casino & Card Club in Dublin had spun for the ultimate time and therefore the last cash-pot had been raked and drawn in.
The official closure of the venue marked a tragic end to the country’s hottest card club.
‘The Fitz’ was opened in 2003 by players led by Dave Cleary, a former Late Night Poker Million ‘face’ who, moved the Dublin. Action faraway from the Merrion Casino. Supported by a collective of shareholders, the first poker action is best described as ‘huge’ because the Celtic Tiger boom saw no shortage of money sloshing around within the poker economy, general economy and therefore the Fitzwilliam co-operative.
Looking back on those youth and this week’s news of its closure, Luke Ivory, who was card room manager at the Fitzwilliam for the primary five years of its existence, reflects.
“It is extremely sad to ascertain it go,” he told Gambling.com. “It was the house of poker in Ireland, so it's bad for poker and it's a really bad time of the year for people to lose their jobs.
“It shouldn't be forgotten ‘The Fitz’ was opened by poker players for poker players but over the years that idea changed and it eventually became more synonymous as a gaming casino instead of card room.”
Evolution Of The Fitzwilliam
Indeed, with stakeholders David Hickson and Paul Cryan at the helm, the venue had slowly evolved into a hybrid card-room/casino while the pair led the chorus for regulation of gambling clubs and lobbied hard for his or her cause.
The official line from the Fitzwilliam Card Club is that its closure was effectively enforced by the Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Act 2019, which was gone Dail Eireann on December 4.
The aforementioned Hickson, who also acts as a Director for the Gaming, expressed his disappointment with the regulations gone TDs and senators last week and warned that it's going to force the industry underground.
“I’m very disappointed,” he told Gambling.com. “We were hoping that we might get a carve out that might give legal clarity for personal Members’ Clubs until regulation came in to force, on the idea that if you don’t give us some kind of temporary license or existence, you basically drive the industry underground
“It’s well for the Minister to inform us it’s not his intention to shut down Private Members’ Clubs, but it won’t be the Minister, it’ll be the Guards working on foot from complaints from somebody who rocks in and says they were ready to gamble thousand euros at a club which doesn’t have a permit.
“Straight away, you’re in breach of the legislation, and albeit you've got a permit, the utmost stake is €10 and therefore the refore the odds of the house and the banker has got to be equal, so there’s no commercial advantage thereto .”
At this juncture it's to be acknowledged neither the Fitzwilliam, which never featured gaming machines incidentally, or any operational casinos within the country (around 40 locations) were or are officially classified as a ‘casino’.
All such venues operate as a personal Members’ Club, giving them a secure haven within Ireland, albeit antiquated law, some would say circumventing the Gaming & Lotteries Act of 1956.
Slow Progress At The Dáil
Six full years later the Lotteries (Amendment) Act 2019 is now upon us. it's passed all Oireachtas (parliamentary) stages – with its final debate being a somewhat amusing piece of theatre – but has not yet been signed into law.
Although the Bill is that the reason Fitzwilliam management cited for its impromptu closure – saying the Act has broadened the definition of unlawful gaming to any gaming staged without a ‘gaming permit’ or a ‘gaming licence’ – Hickson insists Irish government must plough through with the changes, whoever wins the expected election in 2020.
Hickson said: “If they did not follow the regulations which they need this prohibition in place, it’s going to drive problem gambling underground, which is more dangerous for all those were around.
“Governments can move slow at the simplest of times and we’ve had variety of elections since the Research Committee was found out in 2006, also because the crash from 2008 throughout to this in some quarters.
“It was only after we got a replacement Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, who took the second report and turned it into a draft bill in 2013, which was reviewed by the present government on the idea that it didn’t leave an independent regulator, it allowed a regulator through the Department of Justice.
“In fairness, we might always have agreed that the regulator should be independent of politics, it should be an independent body.
“Both of the most parties – Fianna Fail and Fine Gael – have a gambling control bill drafted and both of them are just about an equivalent , with the exception of about 20 words, so no matter which of these two parties gets in, it’s quite likely that the time-frame would continue on.
“When we were trying to find our amendment to be adopted, Sinn Fein put the amendment forward for us then it had been right down to Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to make a decision . The Minister rejected it and with Fianna Fail’s support for his rejection it didn’t pass.
“Fianna Fail and Fine Gael tend to get on an equivalent page, certainly in their co-operation with the Minister during this regard, so i think there'll be continuity during this area, no matter which party assumes the bulk within the next election.”