CONCERN has been voiced that the installation of an ATM at the door of a casino in Letterkenny is “preying on the vulnerable”.
The ATM has been placed outside Majestic Casino on the Port Road. It comes as Donegal County Council has granted permission for the retention and completion of the change of use of the first floor level of the casino to a hostel. It had previously been used as a Private Members’ Club. Plans lodged by applicant Theo Crossan have been given the go-ahead, subject to six conditions including that the developer be responsible for the provision and maintenance of all common services.
Aontú’s Letterkenny candidate for next year’s council elections, Mary T. Sweeney, has questioned who gave the go-ahead to place an ATM machine outside the premises.
Outraged by the move, she said: “Who has made this decision and how has this been allowed to happen? This is Letterkenny – not Las Vegas,” she said.
“We know the damage gambling addiction can do to addicts and the deprivation and suffering caused to their families. Having a ready source of funding to feed that addiction in the form an ATM at the casino entrance is a temptation too far for many gambling addicts.”
Ms Sweeney said the ATM is just a five-minute walk from two other cash machines in the town.
“Clearly someone in Letterkenny believes that this is too much of an inconvenience for Donegal’s betting buffs.”
She said a report published last month from the Health Research Board (HRB) estimated there are 12,000 adults in Ireland who are problem gamblers and a further 125,000 people considered to be “at-risk” gamblers.
She is calling on Donegal County Council and relevant authorities to remove the ATM.
“Is there something in the council air when it comes to Letterkenny that causes complete amnesia about the facts of gambling addiction, its destruction of family life and the supposed commitment by the gambling industry not to prey on the vulnerable?
“I’m calling on the council and other relevant authorities to get this ATM removed and to permit no new cash machine anywhere nearer than the one in the shopping centre.”
Meanwhile, Councillor Gerry McMonagle said there are not enough ATMs in Letterkenny. He welcomed the addition of a new machine, but suggested an alternative location could have been considered.
In 2019, Cllr McMonagle was one of three Letterkenny Municipal District councillors who opposed the legalisation of gaming machines, reversing tight controls which had been kept on them for more than three decades. The ban was imposed in 1986 after a prolonged campaign following concerns about addiction to machine gambling, particularly in Letterkenny and Buncrana.
“I personally don’t believe there are enough ATM machines in Letterkenny. There are a number of shops and public houses on the Port Road, and I see it as a welcome addition for those businesses.
“The provision of the ATM may help businesses in that area. It is a service that we weed. I know that in Glencar there is no ATM. You can go to the shop but if the shop is closed there is nowhere else.
“I am not sure if it’s positioning outside a casino will necessarily encourage gambling. If someone is going to gamble, they will regardless but perhaps another location could have been looked at for the ATM. I suppose it depends on whether it was put in place by a bank or a private venture.”
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