April 28, 2010

Gambling firm sponsors confession box

by David Masters

A Catholic church in the racing town of Newmarket has had its confession box emblazoned with the logo of Paddy Power, the Irish bookmakers.

Paddy Power paid £10,000 to have its name on the box in Our Lady & St Etheldreda church after it was approached by the priest for a sponsorship deal.

Jockey Frankie Dettori – who was married in the church – officially opened the confession box at a ceremony yesterday.

Paddy Power, which has nearly 100 betting offices in Britain, said it was “delighted” with the arrangement.

“We see it as a way of bringing the church to the people and forging stronger links between the church and local people,” Paddy Power said.

“It’s a great fit and perhaps over time confessing your sins in a Paddy Power confession box will become a tradition for race-goers.”

Fr Michael Griffin, the church’s priest, said: “It was suggested by a parishioner that we should ask Paddy Power for help because of its horse-racing connections. We were very pleased when they generously agreed.

“We were happy to put a plaque up on the side of the box, which we refer to as a reconciliation room, and I have mentioned Paddy Power in a sermon.”

A spokesperson for the diocese said there is “nothing wrong” with gambling “unless it deprives people of what is necessary to provide for their needs and that of their dependants.”

Gambling addiction charity Gamcare said: “We provide counselling services in the town but are concerned there are no signs to raise awareness of the support available.

“There are strict rules governing the advertising of gambling companies and if this sponsorship deal amounts to advertising it would have to include our details.”

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