Betting Bill, 1930—Second Stage.

I move the Second Reading of the Betting Bill. This Bill is intended to replace the Betting Act of 1926, except in so far as that Act related to or regulated and controlled the totalisator. The Totalisator Act of 1929 has already dealt with that side of betting. This Bill does not deal in any way with the tax on bets. The tax on bets was imposed in a Finance Bill, and if there were to be any changes in regard to-the tax on bets the changes would naturally and properly be effected not in a Bill such as this, but in a Finance Bill.

The 1926 Act was in the nature of an experiment. It provided for the licensing of houses in which bookmakers might carry on the business of cash betting legally, subject to a certain measure of regulation and control. While certain defects came to light, in my opinion that Act on the whole operated moderately successfully. As a result, however, of certain defects which did appear and certain complaints which were made, a Joint Committee of the Dáil and Seanad was appointed to inquire into the working of the Betting Act of 1926, and report what amendments were considered desirable in the existing law in relation to the business of bookmaking. The Committee sat for, I think, sixteen days, and examined a very considerable, number of witnesses, including representatives of the Churches and of Government Departments, Chambers of Commerce, the Press, householders and bookmakers. The Committee were unanimously of opinion that the main principles of the 1926 Act should not be repealed, but that extended power should be given to remedy any abuses that had arisen—that is to say, the Committee were unanimously of opinion that we should not go back to the old position in which cash betting, except on racecourses, was illegal. Personally, I entirely agree with that decision. I think that there were demoralising aspects of illicit betting which had very serious effects, and would continue to have very serious effects. It is impossible to stop a thing like betting, which is not wrong in itself, but only wrong if carried to excess and abused. It is undesirable, generally speaking, to make illegal something which is not wrong in itself and which cannot be stopped. The desirable thing in that case is to regulate it, so far as it can be regulated; to control it and to prevent the growth of abuses in connection with it. Experience has shown in many countries that attempts to stop something which cannot be stopped tend to create great evils, evils of a new sort and evils which affect the purity and efficiency of public administration.

A great number of recommendations were made by this Joint Committee. All the principal recommendations have been included in this Bill. In one or two instances, on further consideration, we did not agree with the Committee and did not include their recommendations in the Bill, but in the great majority of cases we accepted the recommendations of the Committee or accepted them with very slight modifications. If this Bill were to pass in the form in which it is now before the House, the principal changes which would take place would be that persons under the age of eighteen years would be prohibited from betting, and it would also be made an offence to send a person under eighteen years of age into a bookmaker's premises.

The Committee had recommended that the age under which a person should not be allowed to go into a bookmaker's premises should be sixteen. We felt that having two age limits in connection with the matter might lead to some confusion and that it was better to prohibit both betting by persons under eighteen and their entrance into betting premises. As the Committee recommended, the minimum bet under the Bill will be one shilling, and no sums can be paid out in respect of bets during the hours fixed for the holding of horse races in the Saorstát, Great Britain or Northern Ireland. The Bill, as recommended by the Committee, will make it an offence to call odds in a registered premises or to permit overcrowding or loitering in such premises, that having been condemned by the Committee as conduct which, while all right on race courses, was not suitable for the premises in question. It will also be an offence to exhibit in registered premises, so as to be seen from the street, any list of runners or list of prices or sporting papers or any incitement or inducement to bet. It is provided that there shall be certain additional grounds for refusing a certificate of personal fitness to an applicant for a bookmaker's licence—grounds connected with his financial standing and his having previously defaulted, and so forth. There will be additional grounds for refusal of a certificate of suitability of premises—particularly the fact that an excessive number of registered premises already exists in a particular locality. Loitering outside or near the betting premises will be made an offence, and the Gárda will be empowered to deal with it. It is also provided that licences shall expire on a fixed date, as recommended by the Committee. The Ready Money Football Betting Act will, under the Bill, be repealed. That is a matter that was not dealt with by the Committee, but there seems to be an anomaly in the existing law and advantage was taken of the introduction of this Bill to remedy it. It is not proposed to follow the recommendation of the Committee in regard to the licensing of assistants of bookmakers. While there are certain arguments in favour of that course, it was felt that registration and licensing of such assistants might lead to difficulties in prosecution—difficulties in fixing responsibility. It was desired that full responsibility should rest on the bookmaker, and that his responsibility in choosing his assistants should not be interfered with in any way.

Another matter on which we thought, on further consideration, that it was well not to follow the advice of the Committee, was that of split hours. The Committee recommended that registered betting premises should be open for cash bets from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Although the Committee seemed to think that that would not lead to a revival of street betting, on further examination we had ground for fearing that it would, in fact, do so, and that some illicit organisation might easily be built up, and perhaps it could not be prevented by the police from carrying on betting during those hours in which the premises were closed. We did not insert a section in the Bill providing for split hours.

There are certain other facts in connection with the matter that confirmed us in our disagreement with the Committee. There has been a tendency for racing to take place at a later hour, and, as a matter of fact, it is possible that a larger percentage of bets are made after 3 o'clock now than there were when the Committee had the matter under consideration. Certain figures which we obtained indicated that even in the months of March, April and May, 1929, in the case of one bookmaker, 25 per cent. of the bets were made after three o'clock. If that were so it would be a very conclusive argument against having the premises closed between 3 and 5, as recommended by the Committee.

The Committee recommended that a person in receipt of home assistance should he deprived of relief on account of having been discovered engaged in a betting transaction. We felt that that would be rather Draconic and it was hardly a proper provision for insertion in a Betting Act. We felt that if it were to be put down at all it should be done in an Act amending the laws in regard to poor relief. There seem to be fairly considerable powers at present for supervising those in receipt of outdoor relief. If further powers are required they should be embodied in a special Bill dealing with relief. In any case, there are other forms of expenditure by persons in receipt of home assistance which are as objectionable as betting, and there would be just as good grounds for making them a disqualification for the receipt of relief.

There is the fact, too, that in many cases real hardship might be inflicted on the relatives of the person who carried out the betting transaction rather than on the person himself. On the whole, we felt that the Committee was taking a somewhat strict view of the offence in this matter, and we did not insert any section embodying that recommendation. There was also the recommendation of the Committee that bookmakers should give prescribed and numbered receipts for each cash bet and show the amount received together with the amount of the betting tax to be deducted. It was felt it would be really impracticable to do that because a very considerable proportion of small backers include in their dockets credit bets and it would be impossible to show the total tax which might arise because certain bets would be conditional bets. I think these are the main matters that are worthy of notice in connection with the Bill.

I may say that we on this side of the House approach the problem of betting in the same manner as the Minister for Finance has approached it. We do not regard betting as being ethically wrong in itself; we regard it as something which may be subject to grave abuse. Therefore, we are in favour of an amendment of the existing law rather than the repeal of the Betting Act of 1926. I am glad the Minister has seen his way to embody in the present Bill so many of the proposals of the Joint Committee on the Betting Act. I am sorry, on the other hand, that he has not been able to carry out our proposals, particularly in relation to the splitting of hours and the issue of a prescribed receipt. One of the aspects of the present position which the Committee had to consider was the considerable amount of tax evasion which exists under the present procedure. We also considered the very objectionable practice which a number of bookmakers have initiated of collecting the tax from the punter when he has won his wager. The tax in that case is collected by them from him on the total amount of the winnings of the bettor, and the bettor, in consequence, has to bear the whole burden of the tax. That, to our minds, was a defeat of the original intention of the Act. We presume that the original intention was that the tax was on the wager and was to be paid by the bookmaker and bettor alike.

As well as that, there was the practice on the part of some bookmakers of collecting the tax in a round, sum which invariably was to their advantage rather than to the advantage of the bettor. Where the amount of money was such that there was an odd half-penny or possibly a penny concerned, a round figure of 3d. or 6d. was fixed and deducted, and as a general rule, because of the fact that a large number of those who frequent the betting offices are not competent to make the necessary calculation, a certain amount of injustice was done to the punter. For that reason we thought that it would be advisable to compel bookmakers to issue a prescribed form of receipt in which the amount of tax deducted would be clearly stated. In doing that we had in mind also the current practice of tax evasion which has been indulged in, not by the bookmakers as a whole, but by a certain number of them. It was a practice which we thought was a defeat of the purpose which the Minister originally had in mind when he legalised betting, namely, the derivation of revenue from that very questionable pursuit. I do not agree with the Minister that it would not be possible to issue the receipts as we have suggested because, though the punter does in some cases indulge in a certain amount of credit betting dependent upon the amount of his winnings, nevertheless there is at least one definite bet and that is the bet he makes upon the first race in which he is interested. If the receipt would specify the amount of his wager in that case, then I think something would be done to protect the revenue and a certain amount of desirable information which is at present withheld from the backer would be afforded.

The other question we had in mind was the question of licensing managing clerks. The position with which the Committee was faced in that regard was that in extenuation of offences committed under the 1926 Betting Act it had been urged that the person employed by the bookmaker had let him down, that he was responsible, and that the bookmaker had not been able to keep proper returns because the people whom he employed were not competent or skilled and in some cases were dishonest.

We felt that this whole business is one that to a certain extent is more open to fraud than any other business, and is one in which we know that in a considerable number of cases abuses have been general from time to time. It would be no harm that we would insist that all those who are dealing with the public, either as parties to a wager or clerks to bookmakers, or stakeholders, should have certain qualifications so as to enable them to keep simple accounts in a proper manner, just ability in reading and writing, and that no person should be entrusted with the duty of taking bets and temporarily acting in any way in a fiduciary capacity in relation to the public in this country unless he had certain elementary qualifications in this respect. We had hopes in that way to improve, so to speak, the character, qualifications, and reputations of those who were employed in these betting offices, and, since we are establishing a monopoly, to ensure that those to whom we give the privilege of the monopoly will be able to fulfil their responsibilities to the State and to the public.

For that reason we were in favour of licensing managing clerks in bookmakers' offices. I admit that it may be difficult, but I do not think it should be too difficult for the Minister to solve. There are numbers of businesses at present in which people have to be registered. Registration need not be made too difficult. It need not be so much the question of the possible payment of a fee and setting a standard of character and qualifications. In return for that we would be giving those employed in this business a definite status, and to a certain extent a monopoly.

There was one other thing of which the Committee was very much in favour, and that is the removal of the limitation that exists at present in regard to the evidence that may be given in the case of appeals. One of our recommendations was that in connection with appeals against the refusal of the Superintendents of the Gárda Síochána to issue certificates to bookmakers, the Superintendents should be entitled to call any member of the Gárda Síochána or any other person to give evidence. I think that the Minister has not adopted that proposal. I still think, unless my memory misleads me, that the general public are debarred from giving evidence in this matter.

The following provision in the Betting Act of 1926 shall apply to every appeal: "The Superintendent of the Gárda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners and no other person shall be entitled to appear and to adduce evidence in opposition to the appeal." It was felt desirable that the general public, particularly those who are charged with a particular duty in this case with regard to abuses which may arise out of this Act and the moral effect of such abuses on their people, should be permitted to appear and give evidence in cases where an appeal was taken. There is a certain disinclination on the part of many people to go, as it is said, behind one's back and to make charges against one. I know that there are many people who would prefer to come forward and give their evidence in a public court rather than convey to the superintendent of the Gárda Síochána or to the Revenue Commissioners any information about these matters which they may think desirable, because there is a certain stigma attached to the word "informer" in this country. One may say that it does not rightly attach in cases of this sort; nevertheless, it is there, it does exist, and if the Act is to be enforced we should take into consideration these things.

There is one other matter which I think the Minister has to a certain extent met. That is the excessive size of the penalties imposed under the Act of 1926. These penalties were defeating the main purpose of the Act. If a man had committed one offence against the Act his position seemed so desperate that the only thing for him to do was to continue committing the same offences in the hope that he might be able to make a certain amount of profit before being caught, because if he were caught he would never be able to pay the amount of the penalties inflicted. He would never be able to get out of the penalties that would be exacted from him or the imprisonment to which he would be subjected. The Minister has met us to some extent in that regard, and I am glad he has done so.

There is one other matter on which the Committee made no recommendation. It is not dealt with in the Bill, but it is nevertheless a very important one. It is a fact that the business in these betting offices is done mainly in relation to races run in England. It was felt that that was largely due to the amount of publicity which races run in England receive in this country. There are long lists of winners and there are pages of tips in the papers. You walk down the streets and you see a placard of the local press detailing to you how a certain wizard or prophet has been able to foretell the future to the extent of a forecast of six winners on the previous day. Every one of those were horses that ran in English races. One unhealthy thing, apart from the abuse, was the fact that these were forecasts of races run in England. There is no inducement on the part of the so-called sporting public in this country to take an interest in the horses bred and running upon their own soil. It was stated that one of the stimuli to this unhealthy interest in English racing was the fact that press publicity mainly centred around English racing. There is one suggestion that possibly might be helpful to the Minister. I put it to him now in view of the possible position next year that a tax of so much per column might be imposed upon racing publicity matter of this sort. In that way we might be able to turn over a penny for the Revenue, and thereby reduce the amount of publicity and the amount of interest which is taken in English racing in this country.

I take very great pleasure in the fact that I voted against the Betting Act in 1926. I did so because I believed that a 5 per cent. tax on turnover was unfair. I also knew that the tax on racecourse betting would cause serious injury to racing and breeding. The tax in England was three per cent. whereas we have a tax of five per cent. The tax on racecourses there was two per cent. while ours is two and a half. The British abolished that tax entirely. I do not say at all that revenue should not be obtained from betting, but an unfair tax should not be imposed on anything. I do not at all object to a tax on winnings but I repeat again that a tax on turn-over is unfair.

This is not a revenue Bill. There is no tax in this Bill.

I said in 1926 that I did not like the idea of betting shops, and now I say that the more I know of them the less I like them. This Bill will remedy the principal abuses, such as loitering. There is grave abuse, particularly in the suburbs of Dublin and, I presume, in other cities. The Act is desperately abused, particularly by women and loiterers. I do not think that that occurs so much in the towns, but it is certainly very bad in Dublin. I do not think that I could describe it better than by adopting Jimmie O'Dea's description of Mrs. Mulligan, with her sixpence up-and-down trebles, who remains from the start of racing hanging around the betting shops until the last race is over. If persons want to bet they should, in my opinion, adopt such a motto as: "Get in, get on, get out."

As a person who has considerable experience in betting, I say that, while these people may amuse themselves and may occasionally win, they have in the long run as much chance of making money in these betting establishments as they would have of making ice in hell. I do not suggest that everybody loses. Quite the contrary. Well-informed persons win occasionally, but the ordinary man in the street simply provides money for the bookmakers, and they take charge of it. The Minister has stated that any contemplated change in regard to the betting tax would have to be dealt with in a Finance Bill. I would like to know if I would be in order now in stressing the serious plight in which racing is in this country? Would I be in order in dealing with that aspect of the matter, in view of the fact that I probably will not have another opportunity of doing it prior to the introduction of the Finance Bill or the Budget?

The Deputy wants to discuss the tax on betting now?

I want to draw attention to the position of Irish racing which has been brought about by the tax on betting on racecourses.

There is nothing in the Bill concerning the tax on betting.

The Committee that were appointed to deal with the operations of the Betting Act went into the whole matter, and this was one of the most important recommendations which they made. I therefore ask you whether it would be possible to deal with that matter now.

There was a Joint Committee?

And it dealt with the betting tax?

And I take it that this Bill is one of the results of that Joint Committee?

Then I think the Deputy may advert to the matter now.

The Joint Committee were entirely out of order in dealing with the betting tax, as it was outside their terms of reference.

I suggest that the Minister refer to the report.

As the Bill was introduced by the Minister for Finance are not Deputies allowed to discuss the betting tax?

I may be prepared to show a certain amount of leniency to Deputy Shaw, but I would not accept the principle put forward by Deputy Little, that because the Minister for Finance introduces a Bill, we can go into a discussion on taxation. As a matter of fact a different kind of Bill would be required if it were proposed to remit or impose a tax. This Bill does not concern a tax at all. But discussion has so far had very little relevancy because there would be no possibility at this or any other stage of the Bill to do anything about a tax on betting. I realise that, if the Deputy desires, he may be able to comment to a certain extent on the state of racing, but I would not like to have a discussion on the betting tax.

Perhaps the Minister would say that he is going to accept the recommendations of the Joint Committee and intends to take off the tax on racing. If he does so I shall have the greatest pleasure in sitting down.

I could not give the Deputy an assurance like that now.

A very representative committee of Deputies and Senators, representing all parties in the Dáil and Seanad, spent a considerable amount of time hearing evidence from all persons interested in racing and they came to the unanimous decision that the betting tax on racecourses was injurious to racing, and recommended that it should be forthwith removed. Since the betting tax has been imposed racing has been steadily declining in the Free State and at present the prospect for 1931 is as black as night, unless, of course, the Minister removes the tax. The main effects that the betting tax has had on racing in the Free State are as follows:—

(1) General slump in attendances at the racecourses, even after the charges of admission had been greatly reduced.

(2) The value of stake money has fallen from £113,371 in 1926 to £85,440 last year.

(3) The entries for the principal races in 1931 are the lowest since before the Great War.

(4) The three Metropolitan meetings (Baldoyle, Leopardstown, Phoenix Park) and the Curragh have been carried on at a considerable financial loss every year since the introduction of the betting tax, and at least 90 per cent. of the country meetings met with a similar fate.

(5) It is no secret that if the present conditions continue for another year most of the racecourses in the Free State will only be a memory of the past.

Perhaps the Deputy, having left racing as a memory, is now satisfied, and will go on and deal with the provisions of this Bill.

I want to try to illustrate, if I can, the great importance of taking this tax off racecourse betting.

The Deputy will remember that when the tax was imposed it was imposed by financial resolution in the first instance, and eventually by a Finance Act. This Bill, and the original Betting Act of 1926 which the Joint Committee was appointed to consider, do not contain any provisions in regard to taxation. The tax was included in a separate Bill, so that the Deputy is not now in order in discussing taxation on this Bill. He may find another occasion to do so.

With all due respect, the Joint Committee dealt with all these matters, and the Bill which we have here is more or less the result of their investigations. I do not think that I should be debarred from drawing attention now to the very important matters in the Bill that have been omitted. I quite understand that the matter may be relevant in the Finance Bill and, of course if you, sir, rule that I cannot discuss it I will not press it further.

I have no responsibility for what the Joint Committee discussed. The Joint Committee was appointed to consider the working of the Betting Act of 1926. This Bill proposes to amend that Act, but it does not concern taxation, which, as I have explained, was imposed by the Finance Act. I have allowed the Deputy to go a certain distance, but I cannot allow him to go further on this matter.

I will then draw my remarks to a close. I hope the Minister will carry out the unanimous recommendations of the Committee in regard to the most important matters with which they had to deal.

I propose to deal with the provisions of the Bill now before us. I think that not only those with whom betting is a more or less legitimate trade, as it is now by law, but the general public will view the restrictions which this Bill imposes on that trade with favour because although it is a legitimate trade, like the licensed liquor trade, there is a certain amount of danger in it and consequently there is a necessity for stringent regulations to govern the operations connected with it. It has been found from experience of the Act upon which we have hitherto worked that certain improvements and additions are necessary. The Committee which sat to inquire into the matter gave the result of their deliberations in their Report. The majority of the recommendations of that Committee have been adopted by the Minister and although some others were not definitely adopted, such as that in regard to people in receipt of home help and that in reference to certain hours within which betting establishments should be closed, other additions have been made which more or less take the place of these recommendations. I think the clause in regard to the personal fitness of residents in Saorstát Eireann or outside who may apply for a licence is a very important factor.

The Bill has made this a necessity. It also introduces very stringent regulations in regard to the suitability of premises. Another very desirable reform is that it does away with the frightful evil of street betting. I do not know whether it occurred over here very much, but I notice that in towns on the other side of the water where there were factories and things of that kind street betting became a, perfect curse. Whatever drawbacks there may be to registered houses they are infinitely better, at any rate under proper supervision, than these touts at street corners. They were a perfect nuisance, and a danger besides. I think that the restriction of betting in the case of persons under the age of eighteen is an extremely good feature. The Bill also regulates the position of assistants in the betting houses and prohibits them from making bets on their own account, setting up a sort of bookmakers within bookmakers. Although the hours for closing which the Commission recommended have not been adopted, the regulation which provides that they must be closed during the hours when racing is going on in the Saorstát, in Northern Ireland, and in England will have pretty much the same effect as the regulation which the Commission recommended. It will prevent people standing there the whole time in these betting establishments, just as in the Liquor Licensing Act it was found necessary to have a closing time to make habitues leave the premises. I think this addition to the Act will have that effect.

I think, also, that the prohibition on bets under 1/- is desirable, because people with, say, 8/- or 10/- a week, old age pensioners or people like that to whom, of course, every penny is of value, will be prevented by that provision from being foolishly attracted into these places, and of throwing away practically the whole amount of money they have to live upon on very limited information as to what they may get for their money. I think the prohibition of loitering near these premises is an extremely desirable form too; in fact, I am of opinion the whole Act will be of great use, and that it will put all the regulations for dealing with this very difficult matter of betting on a proper basis. There is no doubt that even a legitimate business may have great dangers in connection with at if not properly managed. I think the Bill will tend to make matters work more regularly, and that if the provisions are properly carried out they will bring about a great improvement in the conditions under which betting can be carried on in the Saorstát.

I approach this Bill from rather a different angle to that of Deputy Wolfe. While, as Deputy MacEntee pointed out, generally speaking, we are in favour of improvements in the regulations governing the business of betting, and the control of those engaged in that business, nevertheless I am not prepared to close my eyes to some of the novel innovations which are gradually, taking place. First of all, sub-section (2) of Section 2 provides that if any person who is not a licensed bookmaker starts to make a book or opens up a betting shop, he is liable on summary conviction to an excise penalty of £500. I do not know whether the Minister for Finance or the Revenue Commissioners realise what they are heading for. If a man commits an offence I believe the proper course to take is, on a complaint made by the Revenue Commissioners, to bring the matter before the District Justice. Let the District Justice deal with the case on its merits. They can then either have a minimum or a maximum fine or a sentence of imprisonment. What is going to happen to the man who contravenes this sub-section (2)? Undoubtedly some man will be found some day making a book without a licence who probably will not have fourpence in his possession. That is why he will be making a book without a licence. He will be fined £500; the District Justice will have no alternative but to fine him that. Certain representations may be made to the Minister or to the Revenue Commissioners and that fine may be mitigated. If the man cannot find the mitigated amount the Commissioners have no alternative but to apply for a committal order and send him to jail, and he must lie there at their will and pleasure. I can foresee this thing happening from the experience I have had of cases under the existing Act.

That is not new. What the Deputy is talking about has been the law for four or five years.

In what connection has it been law?

The section the Deputy is talking about is only a repeat section.

What I am getting at is that the excise laws deal with a different class of person altogether and a different class of the community. Under the excise laws the Revenue Commissioners deal with individuals who come before them under different circumstances altogether. The ordinary excise laws deal with people who have a traditional training in business methods and in connection with the offences where the Revenue Commissioners have a right under the law to exact certain penalties they are dealing with people who have engaged in calculated frauds or attempts to defraud. Up to the introduction of the Betting Act the bookmaker, generally speaking, particularly the small one, was a man who had no business training or tradition, who carried his business under his hat and in his bag; who did his business on the nod; who made bets with people and if they paid him well and good; if he defaulted was helped to pay up. Now suddenly these people are expected to be able to carry out their business just like concerns that have been established for generations. They are supposed to have all the ideas of a man of business understanding which the Minister himself must know is impossible in the case of some men who act as bookmakers. The Minister said it is not new. We know it is not new, particularly in the case of the income tax. But it certainly is new in the case of people carrying on their daily business who are subject to a secret service of the Revenue Commissioners coming in and catching them out and dealing with them without bringing them before the court in the ordinary way and allowing the case to be judged on its merits. That is where I say the difference arises.

I hope that on the Committee Stage the Minister will consider the acceptance of some amendment which will allow for the individual being brought before a District Justice and let that District Justice have some authority or discretion in the matter and not put him in the position of having to do a certain thing without considering anything of the merits. Deputy MacEntee referred to the Betting Commission which received evidence and representations made by certain people with reference to their servants or employees. I am prepared to believe that in some cases where bookmakers were heavily fined for suppression of bets or for the evasion of duty on bets or the writing down of the amount received these bookmakers were deceived by their own employees. Yet under the Act and under this Bill, they are to get no protection. I believe that if the District Justice had wider powers in the matter or if proper powers were left to him, where a man could conclusively prove that the writing down of a bet or the suppression of a bet was done by an employee deceiving and robbing him, the District Justice would take that into consideration and inflict a fine accordingly.

The Minister on a previous occasion made it clear as far as he was concerned that the betting fraternity were to a great extent almost a pack of rogues. I do not accept that view. I accept the view that these men have been brought up and have worked in a different school altogether from that which is understood in the business world. While I admit that certain bookmakers did deceive and defraud, others of them have tried honestly to fulfil the obligations imposed upon them by the Act. Where a bookmaker was in difficulties and was convicted on twenty or thirty different counts it may have been the first time he was caught and the offences may have only covered a period of a few weeks but the man may have found himself unable to pay and he would be put out of business and put in jail. At present you have ex-bookmakers walking the streets depending upon the charity of their colleagues. We do not want to legislate to establish a new class of criminal who becomes a criminal through an accident in many cases. I do not believe we are out to legislate to deprive people of their livelihood. I know of a case of a poor man who is illiterate and who carried on the business of a bookmaker for some years until he got into difficulties because he had been allowed credit for the duty payable and when he was called upon to pay within fourteen days he could not pay. He became a defaulter, with the result that he was heavily fined and sent to jail and is now walking the streets.

Another thing I should like to call attention to is that in sub-section (2) of Section 4 and sub-section (2) of Section 5 a distinction is drawn between a bookmaker resident in the Free State applying for a licence and a person residing outside the Free State applying for a licence here. It is only a small difference but I should like to get some information as to why the difference is made. Sub-section (2) of Section 4 which deals with persons resident in the Saorstát says:

Every person intending to apply under this section for a certificate of personal fitness shall, not less than one fortnight nor more than one month before making such application, publish notice of his intention to make such application at least once in each of two newspapers circulating in the district of the super- intendent to whom he intends to make such application.

The cross-Channel man has only to make one publication in one paper.

A daily paper.

I presume the other papers referred to are daily papers also.

Not necessarily.

What papers then?

Any paper.

Why not let them all make the publication in a daily paper once and not differentiate between the cross-Channel man and a person resident in the Saorstát? The person in the Saorstát must make the publication twice, whether in a daily or weekly paper. Why there should be that distinction I do not know. The local man applies to the local Gárda Superintendent. Why he is not allowed to apply in open court for a licence the same as a publican I do not know. While the local man applies to the Superintendent of his district the cross-Channel man applies to the Minister for Justice. I can conceive a person here being refused a licence and becoming ordinarily resident across Channel and getting a friend to get a licence through the Minister for Justice for the bookmaking business here. As far as I can see, the Revenue Commissioners would be defeating their own object in thus differentiating between the two individuals in the end, and they will find difficulties arising out of the new position.

With regard to the hours, as to paying out of money, I think the Minister will have to reconsider his attitude upon that. I believe that on the Committee Stage of this Bill amendments will be brought in which will show that it would be impossible for some of the men engaged in, and carrying on, this business to conform to the Bill in regard to the particular hours. I am not contending that they should be allowed to take bets and pay out at the same time, but I am contending that they should be allowed to arrange hours convenient to themselves depending upon the business they are doing, or that they should receive bets in a place altogether separate from the paying-out place. On the whole, I want to try and impress upon the House that it would be a good thing to go back again to leaving the administration of justice to the Department of Justice and District Justices rather than having the Revenue Commissioners turned into judge, jury, and lord high executioner at the same time, and where they cannot judge of a thing except from their own angle on the information received. I do not say that they are going to be biased for the sake of being biased, or to be unreasonable out of vindictiveness, but they can only judge on the information given them by their own trusted officials. I say, in fairness, they should be allowed to make their case before the independent tribunal of the District Justice and before the Court of Appeal, and that the fines inflicted as between the minimum and maximum, or an imprisonment sentence, ought to be left to the Courts of Justice in the country. I do not know why it is that the Minister for Finance should suddenly be trying to develop so much distrust in the Department of Justice or in the Courts of Justice when it is other people who should have that feeling. I say the bookmakers themselves are quite prepared to take their medicine before any judge or before any District Justice, but there is always an element of dissatisfaction in feeling they were not getting a fair hearing. It sometimes happens an official or a servant of a Department may not be accurate or strictly truthful. We have cases where the opinions of the Gárda are not always accepted in the District Court, or where the judges discount some of the remarks that they make. In these cases the Revenue Commissioners, if they are to retain their secret service officials, must of necessity accept their evidence and act upon the information given them. The Irish District Justice has sufficient intelligence to be able to judge as to the report of an individual whether the offender was as guilty in calculating his offence as a diligent officer might make out. The public generally will, I believe, feel far more satisfied to have this matter of fines and imprisonment dealt with in the courts in the ordinary way rather than that such fines and imprisonment should be dictated by the Revenue Commissioners to the court.

The whole spirit of this Bill appears to me to be wrong. The Minister said that there were certain practices which should be controlled because they could not be stamped out. In controlling matters like this we have an analogous example, for instance, in the matter of licensing. Where you have an appetite that is easily developed into excess and that leads to public disorder, it is naturally the function of the Department of Justice to deal with that from the point of view of the public policy, and purely and simply in order to control that particular matter in the interests of the public generally.

The principle of this Bill is to make money out of an appetite, and the first consideration is the collection of taxation and trading upon the excess and abuse of what people contend is an ordinary human tendency. It is quite legitimate for people to bet when they have a little surplus money, but the authorities in the matter who refer to the moral law have pointed out that where people bet with money that they cannot afford, and that should be spent on the vital necessities of their families, they are not entitled to use such money for betting. A great deal of the betting under the Betting Act is done in small bets by persons who obviously have not got the money to spare from the necessities of their families.

In the report of the evidence given by the Commissioner for Police the evils arising from small betting were shown. When the representative of the Revenue Commissioners gave evidence he pointed out that in Dublin 50 per cent. of the bets made were small bets under 2/-, and he was therefore against making two shillings the minimum bet. The compromise arrived at is, I think, to make the minimum bet 1/-. The reason I mention that is because that finance department which is in control of this Bill kept in view— and from their own technical point of view it was the correct thing to do— purely the point of view of getting money for the revenue. If that be correct from their point of view I think it is deplorable from the point of view of the public policy. The Bill is itself a re-enactment of 30 clauses of the original Bill plus six clauses containing some of the recommendations of the Report, and also containing one proposal which no one having regard to public policy would have brought into any Bill. I refer to the repeal of the Ready Money Football Act of 1920. The passing of that Act was due to the abuses prevailing at the time. Here we are widening the gates of betting and widening them specially to the detriment of the younger people, because it is the younger people who are interested in football, and it has been rightly said that sport and football are enormously injured in other countries by the enormous element of betting, and that we, in this country, are about to ruin some of the finest sport in Ireland by opening the flood gates of betting where they were shut, and shut, be it noted, by a foreign Government.

The Report makes very sorry reading indeed. In the general Report we find the following: "The information thus available disclosed a large measure of agreement as to the practical effects of the Betting Act. No witnesses appeared before the Joint Committee to urge that serious blemishes in practice have not accumulated around the working of the Act. These are stated to be of a social character, for example, as adversely affecting public order and decorum, or the economic welfare of the community, particularly of the poorer classes, or the formation of the character of young people."

I could hardly imagine anything so terrible as an Act being put upon the Statute Book which would interfere with the formation of the character of young people. It reminded me of a quotation the exact words of which I forget, in Juvenal, who, to say the least of it, was not himself a squeamish person when he was writing. He had a phrase about the reverence due to youth. Since this Act was passed, so far as the habit of betting is concerned, we certainly have not that regard for young people which we should have. We have now to deal with the appetite created in young people in the last three or four years. I do not think that the Act faces up to the situation which the Government have created. The amendments are not stringent. Although I disagree with the Joint Committee on which all parties were represented in their findings, I might say that the advantage of having such a Committee and its report is that it helps to mature one's views on a question like this. I can imagine one who has signed that report forming later on a further set of views on the matter. In any event the terms of the Committee were so limited that it was very difficult for them to deal with the evil involved. The Terms of Reference were: "To enquire into the working of the Betting Act, 1926, and to report as to amendments considered desirable." Except in so far as the evidence which could not be prevented from getting on the records and which pointed to the terrible evil created by this Act was concerned, it could not deal with the whole principle involved. Therefore, one feels perfectly at liberty to differ with the findings even of the Committee as they stand, but I do not think that the suggestion of simply keeping people of eighteen years of age from entering a betting shop is going to stop the appetite which has now been created amongst the younger people. It will be handed on in the schools and elsewhere from one boy to another, and it will require a great deal more than merely stopping boys of eighteen from entering the shops. Other people can take bets from them and arrangements can be made so that the persons who go into the shops will be over the age.

It is said that the evils of the old street betting were worse than the evils created by this Act. Although there is the evidence of the Commmissioner of Police to that effect I cannot find that so far there are any facts adduced to show that that is so. Therefore I think that we should approach this Bill from the very fundamental point of view of those whose duty it is to look after public morality rather than from the point of view of those whose duty it is to collect revenue. Under this Act I think the Department of Justice should be given powers to make regulations from time to time to deal with the whole question of betting. A Committee sitting for a short period and dealing with the facts as they have been brought before them does not really meet the situation. You want to have the powers of the Department permanently interested in the question and actively working and from time to time making such regulations as would reduce the evils of betting to a minimum. We must frankly face the fact that the Revenue Commissioners are going to lose money if we are going to prevent poor people who cannot afford to bet from doing so. Unless the House faces the Bill in that spirit it is doing an evil act contrary to all public policy in legislation which should be in the interests of the character of the people first. The collection of revenue should be a secondary matter. The powers granted to the Revenue Commissioners should not belong to that Department at all. The Revenue Commissioners have the power of imposing the penalties.


They have the power of going before a judge and insisting upon imprisonment. The act of the judge in those cases is purely of an administrative nature. He has no discretion whatever in the matter and the Minister knows that. Then, again, the Superintendents of the Gárda are the persons who are to decide as to the suitability of applicants for licences and the suitability of their premises. Their decisions are to be made privately. This is really a judicial matter and should be dealt with by a judge in an open court. The Act puts into the hands of the Gárda powers which they, by themselves, should not be in a position to exercise. Suggestions were made in the report for a wider use of the totalisator. Legitimate betting on races is perfectly fair if persons go to races, take an interest in the races and bet within reasonable limits while there. To that there can be no objection. The people who bet now, however, hardly know whether a horse has three legs or four legs. All they know about a horse is what they read in the newspapers. The newspapers, with their tipping articles, create a morbid psychology. The people read these articles and develop an appetite for gambling. The result is the evils we see around us to-day. If this were an enactment made in Russia, it would probably be used in this country to show what a frightful country Russia was. This is an enactment made amongst some of the poorest people in the world, living under the rottenest housing conditions in the world, and here we add to their conditions of poverty an absorbing vice.

From the technical point of view, there is no justification for repealing the old Act, because the additions made to that Act are so small that they could easily be effected by a small amending Act of six clauses. If there had been a series of amending Acts or if there had been a series of decisions in the Courts under the Act, then there might be some reason for codifying the law, but here we are offering an insult to the intelligence of the Judges by re-enacting the Act from beginning to end and simply adding six clauses to it. It would have been far better to have introduced an amendment to the old Act and leave it at that for the present, giving power to the Minister for Justice to make regulations from time to time to control the evils of betting. Some of the amendments show a total ignorance of the law in its present condition. For instance, cases have been decided in the Courts that loitering— not merely loitering which stops the traffic or obstructs persons in the pathway but notional loitering—is an offence. Cases have been decided showing that loitering is against the law so that in this Bill we take everything out of the hands of the Judiciary. The question of advertisements has already been decided. In Scot's case these advertisements were declared illegal and yet we are re-enacting law already decided. From the point of view of legal enactment, the Bill is chaotic. My own feeling about the Bill is that unless it is radically amended and the Title widened so as to deal with the tipping articles which appear in the Press and create an appetite amongst people who before would not have thought of such a thing—unless the Bill is amended in that respect I may be disposed, when the Bill comes to Report Stage, to vote against it altogether.

Will Deputy Little exclude these articles from the new paper?

You may say, A Chinn Comhairle, that it is out of order to criticise a Bill for what it is not, rather than refer to it for what it is.

I do not think the Chair ever said that.

I only said you "may." I must confess that, to a large extent, I agree with the last speaker. I was disappointed when I read this Bill. I looked back to the time when the original Act was passed in 1926, and I remember that many of us voted for that Bill in the hope that the effect of it would be to diminish the "betting evil," as I think it is rightly called, rather than to increase it. It was said that to bring that evil to the surface would make it easier to deal with. If we consider what has happened since 1926 I think it will not be contended against that the effect has been a very large increase, particularly amongst those who can least afford it. We see springing up like mushrooms, in all directions, betting shops. In one respect the Bill will probably improve things. It will prevent the loitering of people about these shops, but the shops will be there as advertisements of and incitements to betting. I think that it will be admitted that since 1926 there has been an immense increase in bets— particularly in small bets. It appears to me that the effect of this Bill will be that where a person has, up to the present, put on 6d., which he or she could very ill afford, he will in future put on l/-, which he can still less afford. In one respect the Bill will tend to diminish and restrict betting inasmuch as it prevents those who are under the age of 18 from betting. That and the provision as to loitering seem to be the two good points in the Bill. But when the Bill comes into operation, as I am sure it will, I do not think we shall have done very much to effect what I had hoped this Betting Bill would do—something to bring about a large and important diminution in betting. It will make some difference, but I do not think it will make a very serious difference. In that respect I hold largely the same views that Deputy Little has expressed. One could only deal with some of the points that he has mentioned by referring to what might be in the Bill but which it would probably not be in order to attempt to introduce in the Bill in its future stages.

I think it would.

I doubt it. The two points I have mentioned—the prevention of loitering and the prohibition of betting by those under the age of 18—are sufficient to justify me in voting for the Bill.

The points raised in the arguments I have heard are mainly Committee points. Apart from the radical changes which Deputy Little desires to make in the Bill, the other points can be dealt with in Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Might I ask the Minister if he would accept the principle of giving powers to the Minister for Justice to regulate from time to time by means of orders to be laid upon the Table of the House?

The Deputy will have an opportunity of mentioning that matter on the Committee Stage.

I would like you to have that matter considered favourably because it would be very much better to have things regulated in that fashion.

Committee Stage fixed for Wednesday, 17th December.