Armagh pub owner must compensate bookie following 'illegal gambling' prosecution
THE owner of a pub in Armagh has been fined £2,400 for allowing illegal gambling on his premises going back many years.
And he has also been ordered to pay £24,000 in compensation to the locally-owned Toal's bookmaking chain, which brought the case.
Herbert William (Bill) Currie from Derryhaw Road in Tynan operated the Victoria Bar at 32-34 Barrack Street in Armagh.
He was convicted on 24 separate charges of "carrying on a business or acting as a bookmaker" when he did not hold a valid bookmaker's licence.
The charges related to a range of different dates going back to March 2014.
Currie, who is understood to have absconded to Spain and wasn't present for the hearing in Laganside Courts, was fined £100 on each of the charges. Two other charges were withdrawn.
He was also ordered to pay £2,000 compensation to Toal's on 12 of the charges, and has until the end of June to make the necessary payments.
The case was brought by way of a private prosecution by Toal's, a family-run business which was established in 1932 and which has 50 branches across Northern Ireland.
The chain's managing director Gary Toal has previously instigated legal proceedings against a number of pubs in the north, attempting to block their drinks license renewals because they allegedly allow illegal gambling on their premises.
Indigenous licensed bookmaking chains in the north say they are "frustrated" that the authorities aren't doing enough to stamp out illegal gambling in pubs.
The law in Northern Ireland dictates that, unlike Britain and the Republic, bookies can't open on Sundays, which is a prime betting day for sporting events and therefore betting.
That has led to scores of pubs and clubs having a "bookies runner", who'll take bets either on behalf of the premises or a commercial operator, which is illegal.
In 2017 different bookmakers in Northern Ireland mounted a concerted challenge to block a number of the 1,200 licences were came up for renewal under a five-year cycle, and were successful in five cases.
It is understood Currie's pub in Armagh first came to attention in 2012, but no case was taken at that stage, and in 2017 the authorities didn't proceed with the case, prompting the latest private prosecution.
Mr Toal told the Irish News: "It's very simple - bookmakers aren't allowed to sell alcohol and publicans aren't allowed to facilities bookmaking on their premises and cannot act as a betting intermediary.
"This has been a problem for many years, and we will continue to challenge pubs and publicans so long as the illegal practice persists."
He added: "The next round of pubs license renewals comes around in 2022, and even at this stage we have our eye on at least 10 premises where we believe illegal gambling is rife, and we'll be attempting to block them from trading."
The bookmaking industry in Northern Ireland employs close to 2,000 people in 320 betting shops and contributes in excess of £1 billion to the economy, despite what it insists is the "active discrimination" being shown to it.