Bookmaker loses challenge to Irish racecourse pitch rules

4 November 2019

An Irish bookmaker has lost a High Court challenge to rule changes about how operators are allocated pitches in premium areas of racecourses.

Brian Graham, whose father established the Sean Graham Bookmakers high street and on-course betting chain, claimed that the changes affected his rights to a lucrative position for taking wagers at racecourses.

The new rules have allowed for slots in premium areas of racecourses to be rotated among eligible companies, as well as being linked to seniority.

However, Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy dismissed the application for a judicial review following a decision made in December 2016 by the Pitch Tribunal, which was set up by the Irish National Professional Bookmakers Association (INPBA) and the Association of Irish Racecourses to adjudicate on pitch disputes. Graham’s initial appeal was dismissed by the Pitch Tribunal.

Murphy said that as the Pitch Tribunal’s decisions were made in a private law setting, they were not open to judicial review.

The judge added that Graham had wrongly stated that he was the holder of an on-course betting permit, when it was in fact his mother.

According to the Irish Times, Murphy also said that Graham had been advised that his actual dispute was with his own association, the INPBA.

Murphy acknowledged that, according to minutes of INPBA meetings, there was unrest amongst association members regarding the new pitch rules, in spite of their approval in February 2016, but added: “That is an issue to be resolved within its own internal rules.”

Sean Graham Bookmakers was established in the early 1970s and operates 34 shops across Ireland, with the Telebet department offering a service to customers from Ireland and the UK.