Public Business. - Betting Bill, 1930—Report.

I move amendment 1:—

In page 4, lines 9-10, Section 6 (b) to delete the words "or under the Betting Act, 1926."

This amendment is designed to deal with the position which was created by a certain uncertainty in the law as it stood under the Act it is supposed to amend regarding loitering. According to my information a certain bookmaker or bookmakers were refused a licence on the ground that they had permitted overcrowding on their premises. These bookmakers subsequently appealed I think to the District Court. In one case at any rate the District Justice decided in favour of the appellant and against the superintendent. In subsequent proceedings after a lapse of a year that decision was reversed by, I think, another District Justice in the same district. At any rate, the position in which certain of these bookmakers found themselves was that they were compelled, or at any rate they were asked, to give an undertaking before a licence would be issued that they would not permit overcrowding or loitering on their premises; that they would not permit a nuisance to be created. They contended that they had not, in fact, permitted that to be done; that the people who had congregated in the premises they occupied were gathering there for the purpose of transacting business which was legitimate under the Act.

After a great deal of demur some of them did, I understand, give this undertaking. Then they discovered that this condition was not being insisted upon by superintendents in the neighbouring districts, so that they found that, while they were only granted a licence under certain conditions, neighbouring competitors secured their licence without those conditions being attached. In one of these cases a bookmaker, because he had been advised that the action of the superintendent in exacting this condition was not in accordance with the law, that it was ultra vires, permitted a certain amount of overcrowding in order to create a test case. That was a perfectly legitimate thing to do in order that the law in the matter might be clarified in view of the conflicting decisions of the District Justices in the case. I understand they now fear that the provision which I propose to delete in Section 6, paragraph (b)—the provision that an applicant who has been previously convicted of an offence under the Betting Act, 1926, may be refused a certificate of personal fitness—may be used against him though, as I have said, they acted in a bona fide way, as any citizen is entitled to do, in order to have the law clarified. They are afraid that this may be made an excuse for refusing them a certificate. The people involved are men of high character, and some are of exceptionally good standing in racing circles, and I think the Minister ought, if not prepared to accept the amendment, to see if the danger which they fear cannot be safeguarded.

I am not familiar with the case the Deputy has mentioned, but I feel perfectly safe in saying that if there was a bona fide action for the purpose of having the law clarified, that would certainly be taken into consideration by the superintendent and the Justice to whom there would be an appeal from the superintendent. I was not aware when the Deputy was speaking that persons had been convicted under this. I thought what happened was that objections to renewing licences were raised as regards most of them. If one of those took an action for the purpose of having the law clarified, I feel safe in saying that that would be taken into account, and I am satisfied if the offence was committed bona fide for that purpose, and that there was no serious ground for complaint otherwise, and that the law is now being made perfectly clear in the Bill, that should not be grounds for refusing a licence. The Deputy's amendment would go farther than he intends, as I think he will recognise. I will look into the case the Deputy has referred to, and make representations if they seem to be necessary.

I will pass the name of the person concerned to the Minister, and in view of the Minister's statement, I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment 2:

In page 4, line 13, Section 6 (b) after the word "houses" to add the words "or to betting (other than the Ready Money Football Betting Act, 1920) or has since the commencement of the Betting Act, 1926, been twice or oftener convicted of an offence under the Ready Money Football Act, 1920."

This amendment was put in as the result of an undertaking given during the Committee Stage of the Bill. It extends the list of objections from offences in connection with gaming and gaming houses to other offences in connection with betting under the Ready Money Football Betting Act.

This is the fulfilment of an undertaking given during the Committee Stage of the Bill. It seems to be quite satisfactory and to meet the point raised.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move amendment 3:

In page 4, line 30, Section 6 to add at the end of paragraph (g), the words "provided always that in the case of disputed wagers the decision of an arbitrator agreed to by all the parties to the dispute shall be definitive."

This arises out of paragraph (b) which states that a certificate of personal fitness may be refused in the case of an applicant who had previously held a bookmaker's licence under this Act, or under the Betting Act, 1926, and that he had without reasonable cause failed or refused to pay sums payable to persons who had won bets made with him. I wonder would the Minister agree to the amendment because, as the section stands, it appears to me the superintendent is bound, if he takes this ground into consideration at all, to constitute himself an arbitrator, and to decide whether the applicant has without reasonable cause failed or refused to pay sums payable to persons.

I think that that would be an invidious position in which to put a superintendent of the Guards. After all, he may not be familiar with the rules of racing and may consequently not be in a position to decide whether, as a matter of fact, there has been any reasonable cause and, where the parties agree to appoint an arbitrator, the decision of the arbitrator should be accepted.

There is nothing much against the principle of the amendment, but I think that we would have to put into the Bill machinery to provide for the appointment of an arbitrator and for various contingencies. As matters stand, if the parties agree voluntarily to an arbitrator, I feel certain that the superintendent will be bound to accept it. If he did not, the person going before the Justice would, I think, have an extremely strong case. I do not see how, if there was a case of a disputed debt and if the parties agreed to the judgment of some person, the superintendent could refuse to accept that judgment. If he did, he would be inviting a rebuff from the Justice. I have consulted about this amendment and it is thought that it is unnecessary. If it is merely voluntary it can be done as at present. If we were to have anything obligatory in regard to the appointment of an arbitrator we would want to have some more complicated section. Any cases that come under the notice of the superintendent would, I think, be cases in which the feeling was so strong that an arbitrator could not be appointed. I do not think that this particular provision is necessary. Everything can be done by way of reaching agreement among the parties. At present, if they desire to reach agreement, and if agreement is reached, it could not come to the ears of the superintendent unless one of the parties complained. If we are going to make it obligatory to have arbitration and if we do not arrange the machinery where the parties do not agree to a certain person, the difficulty that exists would still be unprovided for.

This amendment is related to some extent to the equivocal position of the law in relation to betting. Any person even yet can plead the Gaming Act and refuse to pay because, if an arbitrator were agreed on by all parties and if certain individuals refused to accept his decision, they could go into Court, plead the Gaming Act, and get relieved of the necessity of paying. Of course, they would suffer certain penalties at the hands of those who follow racing, they would be blackballed, and would be regarded as blacklegs. They would suffer certain loss of reputation. That position has arisen. What would be the position, say, if an arbitrator declared that a certain person was liable to pay a bet, and that person went into court and pleaded the Gaming Act?

It is the case of the failure of a bookmaker to pay a debt.

He would have done something which he is perfectly entitled to do. Then you would have a conflict between paragraph (g) of the section and the Gaming Act and the purpose of the amendment is to ensure that in the event of such conflict arising the bookmaker will have to abide by the decision of the arbitrator and will not be able to plead a decision of the Court on the Gaming Act as an excuse for not paying the debt.

I had not contemplated that aspect of the question and I do not think that it will arise. I thought that what was contemplated was that if a person refuses to pay, if a bookmaker says that he was not liable to pay and that it was not a question of the bookmaker pleading the Gaming Act but that under the ordinary betting customs he was not entitled to do it. That was the only difficulty which I contemplated in administering the Act as at present. It seems to me that the superintendent has to get fairly substantial evidence that the bookmaker refuses to pay. If there had been arbitration I feel that the bookmaker would be bound to accept the decision of the arbitrator, otherwise he would be inviting a rebuff from the Justice. If it were one of the cases in which a person is out hot against a bookmaker, to injure him or to prevent him getting a licence, I am afraid that that would be a case in which there would be no agreement to appoint an arbitrator. That would be a most difficult case for the superintendent to decide. This amendment would not meet that. The police do not anticipate that any difficulty will arise at present. I am inclined to think that the matter will work along. If the policeman is not satisfied he will have to take the risk of allowing the bookmaker to go on, otherwise the case will have to be threshed out before a District Justice. If there is an attempt on the part of those concerned to reach an agreement and to appoint an arbitrator I do not believe that a case like that would come before the Justice at all.

I think that the Minister should accept the principle of arbitration. I can see that the amendment does not cover all the cases but at the same time the Minister must remember that the Gaming Act debars the Justice from dealing with the matter.

The question of enforcing payment does not arise. We are not proposing to interfere with that.

That is so but they would not go before the District Justice. The superintendent of the Guards is in the position of a judge. He is acting in a judicial capacity, deciding a matter which in the ordinary course is decided by the Justice every day in the week. He has to weigh the evidence. As to the alternative of refusing what we want to have in the Bill, namely, that such cases should be settled by a District Justice, the Minister should consider the question of appointing an arbitrator and, if necessary, to empower the Civic Guards in disputed cases to arrange for arbitration.

I do not wish to go any distance in making a betting debt a legal debt. I think the matter would be bound to come before the District Justice. Some people would come to the superintendent and lodge a complaint that such and such a bookmaker was not paying the sum due. That would presumably give an opportunity to the superintendent, and, if the bookmaker did not give a satisfactory answer in regard to that, if he was welshing in some way, he would refuse to allow the licence. If the bookmaker was not satisfied the superintendent would have to state the ground on which he refused to grant the licence. The matter would then have to come before the District Justice who would hear evidence on that particular point, whether or not he refused to pay the debt, and you would have a District Justice in undisputed cases hearing and determining them.

The Minister has, notwithstanding his disinclination to do so, made a betting debt recoverable as a legal debt by the provision of this particular paragraph because if a bookmaker refuses to pay a betting debt, he is going to lose his licence. Our point of view is that the person who should determine what is a betting debt legitimately payable by the bookmaker should not be the superintendent of the Gárda, but should be some other person. I pointed out the present anomalous position of the law in the matter in so far as people could agree to an arbitrator and one of the parties in this case, the bookmaker— it does not happen very often—can refuse to accept the decision of that arbitrator against him, go to the court and plead the Gaming Act. Then when the matter would come before the District Justice, this is the dilemma in which he would be placed. The superintendent of the Gárda will say: "According to the arbitrator this bookmaker was bound to pay the bet." The bookmaker's legal representative would say: "According to the Gaming Act this was not a debt which the bookmaker was bound to pay." The Betting Act and the Gaming Act are at the present moment inconsistent with each other. The real purpose of the amendment is to clarify the position, to bind the bookmaker, where he agrees upon an arbitrator, to accept the decision of that arbitrator as a final decision before the District Justice.

Surely that does not mean that you would oblige the bookmaker to pay.

The bookmaker still under the Act could go before the court and plead the Gaming Act. That is a position I wish to maintain. If we were going to make a gaming debt a legal debt, then we would be obliged ultimately to go the other way.

The point about the matter is this: the decision of the arbitrator would bind the bookmaker to pay under pain of losing his licence which is a condition which the Minister wishes to enforce under paragraph (g). He would not be able to plead the Gaming Act against paragraph (d) of Section 6 of the Act which otherwise he might do.

I am prepared to think over the matter a little further.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move:

In page 4, line 40, Section 6 (i), after the word "conducted," to add the words "or he had permitted persons to loiter in such premises."

This is in response to a suggestion made by Deputy Little.

We accept the amendment.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 4, to add at the end of Section 6 a new paragraph as follows:—

"(k) except in the case of an applicant who is at the passing of this Act the holder of a bookmaker's licence issued under the Betting Act, 1926, and is continuously from the date of such passing up to and including the time of making such application the holder of a bookmaker's licence issued under the Betting Act, 1926, or this Act, and for the time being in force, that such applicant is the holder of a pawnbroker's licence or is a registered moneylender."

This is also in response to suggestions made in several quarters of the House.

We accept this amendment because we have no other way out of it, and on the principle that half a loaf is better than no bread. I would have preferred to have seen these people excluded altogether, even these pawnbrokers and registered moneylenders who have been bookmakers up to this, excluded from being in future bookmakers. It is really an inconsistent compromise like most compromises and we will have to accept it.

It is a combination of suggestions made from different parts of the House.

Amendment put and agreed to.
Amendment No. 6 not moved.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 6, line 40, Section 11 (i), to delete the words "permit to loiter in," and in line 41, after the word "premises" to add the words "or while the applicant was such registered proprietor he had permitted persons to loiter in such premises."

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move amendment 8:

In page 6, to add at the end of Section 11 a new paragraph as follows:—

"(m) if the application is in respect of premises which are not registered premises at the time the application is made, that the annual value under the Valuation Acts of such premises is, in the case of premises situate in the county borough of Dublin, less than fifteen pounds, in the case of premises situate in any other county borough, or in the borough of Dun Laoghaire, less than ten pounds, or in the case of premises situate elsewhere, less than five pounds."

This is a slight modification of the amendment that was before the Committee.

I made some inquiries about valuations in country towns and it was represented to me that £10 in country towns is a little bit high in many cases. Would the Minister accept £5 instead of £10?

It is £10 in a county borough or in the borough of Dun Laoghaire and £5 elsewhere.

I should have said that it was £3 that was suggested to me instead of £5.

We discussed this matter with the police and the Commissioners of Valuation.

I accept it then.

Amendment put, and agreed to.

I move amendment Nos. 9 and 10:—

In page 6, to add at the end of Section 11 a new paragraph as follows:—

"(n) except in the case of an applicant who is at the passing of this Act the registered proprietor of the premises under the Betting Act, 1926, and is continuously from the date of such passing up to and including the time of making the application the registered proprietor of the premises under the Betting Act, 1926, or this Act, that such applicant is the holder of a pawnbroker's licence or is a registered moneylender."

In page 6, at the end of Section 11, two new sub-sections as follows:—

"(2) Where an application for a certificate of suitability of premises is made or intended to be made in respect of premises which are not separately valued under the Valuation Acts, the Commissioner of Valuation and Boundary Surveyor may, on the request of the person making or intending to make such application, divide the valuation of the hereditament or tenement of which such premises form part and place a separate value on each of the parts in the manner provided by the Valuation Acts, and there shall be paid in respect of the making of such division to the said Commissioner by the person on whose request such division was made the prescribed fee.

(3) Every fee paid to the Commissioner of Valuation and Boundary Surveyor under the foregoing sub-section shall be paid into or disposed of by him for the benefit of the Exchequer in such manner as the Minister for Finance shall direct."

Amendments put, and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 11:—

In page 8, before Section 16, to insert a new section as follows:—

(1) The Minister for Justice may at any time at his absolute discretion revoke any bookmaker's licence issued under this Act to a person by virtue of his holding a certificate of personal fitness given by the said Minister.

(2) Whenever a bookmaker's licence is revoked by the Minister for Justice under this section the said Minister shall communicate the fact of such revocation to the Revenue Commissioners and the Revenue Commissioners shall thereupon record such revocation.

This amendment also arose out of the discussion on the Committee Stage. It was pointed out that we would find it difficult to convict a bookmaker from outside who might commit certain offences.

Amendment put, and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 12:—

In page 19, Section 18 (5), to delete line 3, and substitute the words "a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds or at the discretion of the court to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months."

This is making it the ordinary fine in these cases.

Amendment put, and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 13:—

In page 10, line 54, Section 21 (1), after the word "shilling" to add the words "win, one shilling place, or one shilling win and one shilling place."

This amendment is designed to clarify sub-section (1) of Section 21. The section states that it shall not be lawful for a licensed bookmaker to enter into a bet of a lesser amount than one shilling. The practice is to back horses both ways and the question is whether a shilling on the docket might not mean sixpence win and sixpence place. The bookmakers I must say are not over anxious to encourage these small bets. We would like to have the matter made clear.

I am informed that this amendment is not necessary. I had a consultation in regard to this matter and it appears that the expression "both ways" is tantamount to making two separate bets. It is quite clear that it means two bets, as one can be won and one can be lost. It is perfectly clear therefore that the amendment is not necessary.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 14:—

In page 11, line 29, Section 23 (2), to delete the words "an excise penalty of" and substitute the words "a fine not exceeding" and in line 31 to delete the words "excise penalty of" and substitute the words "fine not exceeding."

This is also making it an ordinary penalty.

Amendment put, and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 15:—

In page 12, line 12, Section 25 (1), after the words "Gárda Síochána" to insert the words "accompanied by a senior officer."

This amendment relates to the power of entry and investigation by any officer of the Customs and Excise or any member of the Gárda Síochána. The relevant sub-section states that any officer of customs and excise or any member of the Gárda Síochána may enter any registered premises at any time during which such premises are, or are suspected by such officer or member of being, open for the transaction of any business. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the member of the Gárda Síochána on these occasions will be accompanied by a senior officer. It has been suggested—I merely convey it to the Minister so that he may consider it in relation to this subsection—that there is a certain danger in any single member of the police forces entering betting premises in this way, that their powers under the section may be subject to abuse and may be easily abused. The purpose of providing that the officer will be accompanied by a senior officer is to ensure that that abuse will be less likely to take place.

I could not agree to accept that amendment but I am proposing an amendment to the next sub-section that will perhaps go a certain way to meet the Deputy. In regard to the registered premises I think unless we can have the Gárda in the position that he can walk into the place when he has reason to have any suspicion whatever, it would be impossible to enforce the Act. Getting a senior officer to accompany him, apart from the fact that "senior officer" is a vague expression, would handicap the enforcement of the law so much that we are satisfied serious breaches would take place.

I must say that I appreciate the difficulties in the matter. I do not know whether it would not be better to encounter those difficulties and have a dual inspection. After all, so much would depend on the word of a single person in this case that it is quite possible a man might abuse the position and might subject the licensed bookmaker to what may be a form of blackmail. I do not wish that what I am saying should be taken as any reflection on the Gárda but it is one of the factors in human nature that we have to take into account. I would like to press that.

If there was an offence alleged as a result of such a visit the Gárda would have to be supported by documents, or when the offence related to persons being present on the premises, there would be evidence. In the one case he would have to be supported by corroborative documents and in the other case there would be the evidence of the persons there present on the visit of the Gárda.

Under the old system what happened was that the Gárda got a warrant. It was done in such a way that it became a farce. I admit that. Now we have gone a great deal in the other direction; we have not only got rid of the warrant but of the Superintendent as well. Persons making a raid should be fairly responsible. No matter how reliable the policemen may be, and there is no reason to believe him otherwise in the City of Dublin, and all over the country for the matter of that, still you may have people taking advantage of this. The temptation is greater than in the case of going into a publichouse or watching a publichouse. Here is a matter that might possibly be the subject of temptation to a policeman, and it might be worth while for the bookmaker to deal with a man like that on a bigger scale. Such cases have not been unknown in the case of the bookmaking business already. I think the Minister should consider this seriously. There should be two policemen, and one of them of superior rank, if not a Superintendent.

The Deputy is thinking of the danger of corrupting the Gárda. That danger will be all the more likely to arise if there is a great deal of formality. It was when there was a great deal of formality about the raids that information was given about them beforehand. It would be much harder for a bookmaker to protect himself if, for example, a policeman on point duty in the street could stroll in to make an inspection. I think from every point of view it would be better to leave the section as it is. This is quite different from raids on a place where betting was illegal. This is where illegal business is being carried on, and the policeman has grounds for believing that bets are not recorded or that betting is carried on at an illegal hour. I cannot see that any harm would arise by leaving this section as it stands. I think the danger is worse in the case of a publichouse.

It might meet the point made by Deputy MacEntee if some such words as these were substituted: "sergeant or other officer" for "senior officer." I can quite see the point that Deputy MacEntee has made. It might be desirable to have somebody with the Gárda. I think the point would be met if somebody above the rank of an ordinary Gárda, say, a sergeant, were there. If the Minister would accept that it might get over the difficulty.

I have thought over that. In the next section I have gone a considerable distance to meet the Deputy, but in this section I do not think there is any danger, and the inclusion of the amendment would make the administration of the Act quite impossible.

People engaged in the bookmaking business have made representations to me in this matter. I can conceive that the danger I have pointed out would arise, but I can also be perfectly frank, as I can visualise that the identity of the Gárda or sergeant would be so well known that his appearance in the neighbourhood would be sufficient to warn the parties. For that reason I have sympathy with the point of view of the Minister. At the same time I think the abuse should be safeguarded against. I am not going to press this amendment to a division. We have a choice of two evils, but I am not satisfied that the Minister is choosing the lesser of the evils.

Amendment 15, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment 16, which reads:—

In page 12, Section 25 (2), to delete all from the word "or" in line 20 to the word "Síochána" in line 21, and all from the word "or" where it secondly occurs in line 23 to the word "Síochána" in line 24, and also to delete the word "or" in line 25, the word "member" in line 26, and the words "or member" in line 29.

This amendment takes away from the Gárda the right which was given in the Bill to enter non-registered premises.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment 17, which reads:—

In page 12, line 60, Section 26 (1) (a), to insert after the word "employed" the words "was employed as his clerk or assistant on the 1st day of March, 1931, or."

This amendment was put down to save people under 18 years of age who happen to have been employed in this business on the 1st March last—people who have been actually in the employment.

Is the Minister aware of many people of this kind?

I am not aware that there are many, but an appeal was made that there were some and I do not want to interfere with people in employment already. I did not make an attempt to ascertain how many people were affected by this amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment 18:

In page 13, line 39, Section 27 (1), to delete the words "of or over the age of eighteen years" and substitute in brackets the words "(being persons who are of or over the age of eighteen years or who were employed in such premises by such licensed bookmaker on the 1st day of March, 1931)."

Amendment put, and agreed to.

I move amendment 19, which reads:—

In page 14, line 18, Section 30, to delete the word "section" and substitute the word "sub-section" and at the end of the section to add a new sub-section as follows:—

(2) Every person who directs, causes or induces any other person to commit an offence under the foregoing sub-section of this section shall be guilty of an offence under this sub-section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding five pounds.

This amendment makes it an offence for those who induce persons to make a false statement.

Amendment put, and agreed to.

I move amendment 20, which reads:—

In page 14, to add at the end of Section 31 a new sub-section as follows:—

(3) Nothing in this section shall render it unlawful for a licensed bookmaker while in Saorstát Eireann to make or enter into a bet with a person who is then outside Saorstát Eireann and does not carry on business as a bookmaker.

I think Deputy MacEntee pointed out that a bookmaker might be liable for making a bet with a person outside Saorstát Eireann.

Amendment put, and agreed to.
Question —"That the Bill be received for final consideration"—put and agreed to.
Fifth Stage fixed for Friday, 29th May, 1931.