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Justice has been done but at what price? COMMENT.

WEDNESDAY'S decision by Mr Justice Gerard Hogan in Dublin's High Court to rule in favour of bookmakers marks the near-conclusion of a saga which originated in 2007 with the opening of Ireland's first all-weather track at Dundalk.

Legal action became inevitable when Dundalk failed to respect the well-established concept of bookmaker seniority in making pitch allocations prior to the reopening of the venue.

The law is not always about common sense. However, in this case, Mr Justice Hogan has vindicated the common-sense viewpoint, argued by the Irish National Bookmakers Association, that bookmaker seniority should have been maintained at a venue where the new facilities occupied the same physical location as the old turf course.

Precedent, such as the name change at Cork (formerly Mallow) and the relocation of the Limerick track, was clearly on the side of the bookmakers from the outset.

So nearly seven years on, justice has been done, but at what cost? Well, for a start the legal costs will be substantial, something Irish racing can ill afford.

Without the main bookmakers in action the Dundalk betting ring quickly became a wasteland. Inevitably it would have suffered in the recession, in common with the on-course market elsewhere, but in 2007 there was a chance to establish a vibrant market at Dundalk. The irony is very few of the bookmakers whose case has triumphed will now regard it as economically viable to take up their rightful pitches.

The dispute cast a doubt about the effectiveness of Horse Racing Ireland as a regulatory body. It is not just with the benefit of hindsight that we argue it should never have been allowed to reach the legal arena. Alan Sweetman
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Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Feb 21, 2014
Words:280
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