But the owners, who paid their taxes and operated legitimately, may not reopen the club after the operational hiatus that resulted from the raid, the Irish Times reports.
Judge David Anderson ruled on Tuesday that there was insufficient evidence to prove a charge of unlawful gaming against the Atlantis Casino Club under the 1956 Gaming and Lotteries Act.
The case against the club was widely seen as a test of the State’s laws on gambling. Casinos are illegal under the 1956 Act but this has not stopped up to 50 casinos operating as private members’ clubs opening up in recent years.
The favourable verdict has come too late for Paul Lucey, operator of the Atlantis Casino Club, who said the Garda raid on the club in May 2008 had effectively put him out of business and he did not think the backers would want to reopen Atlantis.
A clearly relieved Lucey called for legislation to reform the Irish gambling laws.
“We ran a professional show,” Lucey said, “we paid our taxes and all our staff were on the books. Like others in this sector, we want legislation to clarify the situation.”
The Atlantis was shut in May 2008 after an early morning raid by seven gardaí, who seized the roulette wheel, safe and gambling chips.
The Gaming and Leisure Association of Ireland, which represents 12 casino clubs, said the verdict showed that existing legislation on gambling was not working.
“This outcome appears to show that the authorities don’t have the power to close down clubs, and it doesn’t give us the clarity we need on the law,” said David Hickson of the association. “It’s not serving anybody well at the moment.”
Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern has declared his intention to press ahead with legislation to legalise casino clubs despite the failure of efforts to achieve cross-party consensus on the issue. The legislation is expected to be included in a new anti-money laundering Bill to be published within weeks.
Ahern is also expected to start consultations shortly about reform of the entire gambling sector, including betting shops and the horseracing and greyhound industries.
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