Ireland’s Bingo Players Protest Cap on Winnings, Warn They Won’t Play for ‘Half the Pay’

Posted on: December 4, 2019, 10:08h. 

Last updated on: December 4, 2019, 11:12h.

Over a hundred of Ireland’s bingo players broke out in vocal protests this week in Dublin, as the nation’s parliament considers limiting winners to just 50 percent of takings. The balance would be split between game operators and charities under a legislative proposal.

Bingo players from Ireland protest a proposed cap on bingo winnings. (Image: Irish Sun)

Currently, a typical bingo operator pays out more than 85 percent of its takings in players’ prizes, according to the Irish Times.

To get the 50 percent proposal before the Republic of Ireland’s parliament, Minister of State David Stanton was expected Wednesday to offer an amendment to the Gaming and Lotteries Bill now before the Dáil Éireann. It is the lower house of Ireland’s parliament.

But, if approved, the amended legislation will lead to the “closure of every bingo hall in Ireland,” warned a statement from the Save Our Bingo group, reported.

During Tuesday’s protests outside of Leinster House, which houses parliament, many pro-bingo demonstrators were heard chanting, “Half the pay, we won’t play,” the Irish Times reported. A poster opposing the change read, “posh boys don’t like bingo.”

Currently, some 20,000 residents play bingo weekly in Ireland, the Times quoted one estimate.

“If the legislation comes in, there will be no bingo tomorrow, no one will play,” a bingo player at the protest told “We buy the books out of our money that we have already been taxed on and now they want to tax us again.”

Another opponent to the amendment, Parliament member Michael Healy-Rae, Independent-Kerry, asked, “How more innocent or harmless a thing can you have than bingo?

“The minister [Stanton] will have to wake up and realize that amendments will have to be made because halving [the jackpot] is wrong and a bad decision,” Healy-Rae said, reported.

Stanton Says It Is Modest Proposal

But Stanton called his amendment “a modest proposal. It will simply ensure that the charities receive a fair share from the bingo operators who act as their agent. That is a minimum of 25 percent of the proceeds of the bingo,” said.

I don’t accept that bingo halls would be forced to close as a result,” Stanton added. “Given its social appeal, people do not play bingo based solely on the prize level. If they did, they would likely gamble elsewhere.”

In response, Naomi Reilly, a spokesperson for the Bingo Players Association, told that Stanton has “blistering incompetence and a total lack of understanding of the game of bingo and the fallout he has caused.”

Constituents Will Remember the Amendment

“The bingo players in his constituency will not forget or forgive the absolute mess he has created.… The Minister has gone out of his way to deliberately not understand that we won’t play a game where we lose half of our money before we even start,” Reilly said. “He also doesn’t understand that when every bingo hall is closed by him there are thousands of charities around the country that will lose out on much-needed donations by his total incompetence.”

Stanton, who is responsible for gambling regulation, also wants the government to set up a national gambling regulator.

Elsewhere in Ireland, a newspaper ad from Irish bookmaker Paddy Power that ran during the 2019 Six Nations rugby tournament, violated marketing industry standards, the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) concluded last month.

The ASAI said the six complaints it received considered the ad “racist, offensive, anti-English in sentiment, stirring up anti-English feelings, and was both highly insensitive and bigoted towards English people.”