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Ireland: Cabinet fast tracks casino proposal before budget

8 December 2010

IRELAND -- A report on changes to Ireland's gaming laws has been fast tracked for consideration next week, The Sunday Business Post reported.

The report is being fast tracked ahead of next Tuesday's austerity budget vote and will be signed off on in the last meeting before the Dail (parliament) ends for the holidays.

Planning permission has been approved for the casino but it cannot proceed until the country's gaming law changes, The Sunday Business Post said.

The government requires casino supporter Independent TD (MP) Michael Lowry's vote, in order to pass the austerity budget, The Sunday Business Post noted.

05 December 2010 By Niamh Connolly, Political Correspondent

Cabinet ministers will consider a report next week on changes to the gaming laws demanded by independent TD Michael Lowry.

There is now growing confidence that the government will have sufficient support to pass Tuesday's budget. This follows meetings with independents who will decide its fate.

The controversial report on the licensing of 'supercasinos' was fast-tracked for circulation to all ministers and departments in the last number of days.

A spokesman for Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said the ministers would 'sign off' the report at the cabinet meeting which follows the budget, the final cabinet meeting before the Dáil's Christmas recess.

In a flurry of activity ahead of the budget, the North Tipperary TD had three meetings with finance minister Brian Lenihan.

He told this newspaper that he had 'an open mind' on the budget, and would make a final decision today, following consultation with his local organisation.

With its majority reduced to just two votes, the government is relying on the support of Lowry and Kerry South independent Jackie Healy-Rae to pass the budget.

Lowry, a former Fine Gael minister, is backing a €460 million casino project near the village of Two-Mile-Borris in Tipperary, that received planning permission but cannot proceed due to the gambling laws.

The Tipperary Venue project, which is to include a 500-room hotel and new racecourse, requires reforms to the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956. The project has been developed by Richard Quirke, a former garda who runs Dr Quirkey's Good Time Emporium on O'Connell Street in Dublin.

Lowry has previously stated that a change to the gaming law was not a precondition for his support of the budget. But he has been turning up the heat on government for the report's publication in recent public statements.

He told The Sunday Business Post last month that the internal report was completed and that it should be published.

He called on the government to state its favoured option on the regulation and control of the gaming industry.

A request for the submissions to the internal review group was turned down. The request was made under the Freedom of Information Act.

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