Three more pubs challenged over alleged illegal gambling
BOOKIES are challenging three more pubs in the north from having their drinks licences renewed today in an ongoing pursuit of alleged illegal gambling happening over a pint or a whiskey.
Cases are listed for hearing today in Ballymena Court against the Railway Bar and Thatch Bar in Larne, and the Village Inn in Portglenone - all well known and much frequented hostelries.
Toal's and McLean's Bookmakers are understood to be taking the cases, claiming the defendant are “unfit licensees”.
Their opposition stems from their ongoing belief that the authorities in their opinion aren't doing enough to stamp out bets being taken in their bars.
Last month the owners of two Lisnaskea pubs failed to have their drinks licences renewed after a court ruled them to be in breach of their conditions.
But both Brian McGovern of Mac's Bar and Martin Maguire of Frank's Bar are appealing the rulings.
A prominent bar in Lurgan - the Stables - has also had a review of its licence put back to the new year.
A number of bookies are bidding to block pubs from having their booze licences renewed because they claim many are facilitating and effecting betting transactions on their premises.
In one case last month Fermanagh court heard how an investigator, wearing glasses with a built-in secret camera, recorded bets being written out on a docket in Mac's Bar and then witnessed winnings being paid out.
Tomorrow's cases are among five listed in December, with more to follow in January and February.
Pubs have hit back though, and Ulster Hospitality chief executive Colin Neill said: "We would never condone any illegal activity and will not defend anyone running an illegal gambling operation.
"But is extremely disappointing that Northern Ireland's bookmakers have singled out the pub industry in what we believe is a fight about them being allowed to open on a Sunday.
"They are doing this by taking less than a handful of cases and painting a picture that illegal gambling is rife across the industry.
"A review of the gaming legislation in Northern Ireland is long overdue.
"But with some operations in bookmakers straying into potentially uncompliant areas, to imply the majority of the pub industry is participating in illegal gambling is totally uncalled for.''