(1) That there shall be charged, levied and paid a levy, at such rate as shall be fixed by the Racing Board, with the consent of the Minister, under statutory authority, on every course bet entered into by a licensed bookmaker on or after a date to be fixed by the Minister under statutory authority.
(2) That the said levy shall be paid to the Racing Board by the licensed bookmaker by whom the course bet, in respect of which the said levy is payable, is entered into.
(3) That provision shall be made by statute for the collection and enforcing of payment of the said levy.
(4) That in this Resolution— the expression "the Minister" means the Minister for Finance;
the expression "the Racing Board" means a board to be established under that name by statute;
the expression "licensed bookmaker" means a person who is for the time being the holder of a bookmaker's licence issued to him under the Betting Act, 1931 (No. 27 of 1931);
the expression "course bet" means a bet entered into by a licensed bookmaker, during a race meeting held on a racecourse and at that racecourse or in the precincts thereof, on a horse race forming an item at that race meeting.
I think the Dáil understands that any time there is a levy imposed on the people, or on any section of the people, it is necessary to get, in a special and independent way, the leave of the House for such imposition. That is the purpose of the Financial Resolution.
One of the main purposes of the present Bill is to provide adequate funds for the benefit of horse racing and horse breeding, and it is proposed that these funds shall be collected and distributed by a racing board. The 10 per cent. deduction from the totalisator pool would not be sufficient for the purpose in view and, consequently, the Government have decided, and the Bill so provides, that the Racing Board should be empowered to collect a levy, at a rate not exceeding 5 per cent., on all course bets as defined in the Resolution and in the Bill.
Chapter III of Part III of the Bill deals with the imposition of the levy on course bets. That portion of the Bill is to come into force on a date to be fixed by Order of the Minister for Finance and, no doubt, there will be some interval between the passing of the Act and the actual introduction of the levy so as to allow time for the Racing Board to make the necessary arrangements and to issue course betting permits to bookmakers under Chapter II of Part III.
Section 26 of the Bill provides the necessary legal obligation on the bookmaker to pay the levy, but it will be noted that the consent of the Minister for Finance is necessary before the board prescribe the rate of levy. In no case can the rate of levy exceed 5 per cent.
Section 27 of the Bill enables the board, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, to make the necessary regulations for securing the payment of the levy, and the terms of the Resolution (Clause 3) relate to these provisions in the Bill for the collection and enforcing of the levy. Sections 28 and 29 confer the necessary powers on the board to secure that their officers will be able to inspect the books and records of course bookmakers, whether at their premises or on the course. It is expected that the method and procedure to be adopted by the Racing Board for the collection of the levy will be on similar lines to those applied by the Revenue Commissioners in the enforcement of the betting duty. Bookmakers, who are familiar with the practice of the Revenue Commissioners, should therefore have no difficulty in adapting themselves to the requirements of the Racing Board.
It must be emphasised that what is now proposed is not a tax collected for the benefit of the Exchequer. The Exchequer has no direct interest in the matter whatever and the full amount of the levy will be used by the Racing Board for the benefit of horse racing and horse breeding in accordance with the purposes set out in the Bill.
Neither is it proposed that the levy should be an imposition on bookmakers. It is expected that they will pass on the levy to their clients and that this contribution towards the improvement and development of racing and breeding will be borne by the race-going public who already contribute to this object 10 per cent. of any bets they may place with the totalisator. Apart from the important national interest served by providing funds for the twin interests of racing and breeding, the race-going public will, it is expected, derive advantage from the operations of the racing board. They are empowered to apply their resources towards the reduction of admission charges and the improvement of amenities at racecourses.
It will be recollected that a revenue duty on course bets was in operation from the 1st November, 1926, until the 1st August, 1931. The duty was thus in operation over four full financial years, when the receipts were: 1927-28, £61,959; 1928-29, £44,886; 1929-30, £52,190; and 1930-31, £49,548.
Taking the average yield at £50,000 from that duty of 2½ per cent. the volume of course betting was about £2,000,000 a year. The duty was dropped in 1931, not because the Minister for Finance at the time was convinced that it was difficult to collect or that it had any harmful effects on racing, but because persistent propaganda was being used to ascribe to the tax all the results flowing from a general depression in racing, coupled with a lack of energy and initiative on the part of racecourse executives and those responsible. At least that was the view of the Minister for Finance at the time, as set out in his Budget speech of May, 1931.
It will also be recollected that in the Budget of 1941 it was proposed to reimpose the 2½ per cent. duty on course bets for revenue purposes. Deputy Cosgrave opposed the proposal on the grounds that a relatively small number of people placed the bulk of the aggregate of course bets and that the tax was a serious imposition on these few, who were mainly breeders, trainers and owners. Deputy Fogarty opposed the proposal which, he said, was a burden that racing could ill afford. The Minister withdrew the proposal before the Second Stage of the Finance Bill and contented himself with securing the additional revenue required by increasing the 5 per cent. tax on shop bets to 7½ per cent. The objections urged against the former tax proposals do not apply to the levy on bets, the proceeds of which will be used for the benefit of racing and breeding.
Under the Bill course bookmakers will be obliged to obtain a permit from the Racing Board. This step is necessary to provide the board with the means of securing the co-operation of the bookmakers in the collection of the levy. Bookmakers should realise that their interests and those of the board are identical because the more money that is collected and expended on the improvement of racing, the greater will be the attraction for the public and the greater will be the volume of betting. Moreover, the Bill recognises the need for the continued existence of course bookmaking, and has been described as "the bookmakers' charter" in so far as it removes from them the danger that they might be eliminated in favour of the totalisator. The bookmakers will have a voice on the Racing Board and will in this way be in a position to secure that they are not subjected to any unjust or inequitable treatment at the hands of the board. So much for the Financial Resolution.
Maidir leis an mBille, mar is léir ón teideal fada, is é cuspóir an bhille seo ná Bórd, ar a dtugtar an Bórd Rásaíochta, do chur ar bun chun síolrú capall agus rásaíocht chapall d'fheabhsú. Beidh cumhacht ag an mBórd socruithe do dhéanamh i dtaobh geallghlacadóirí a dhéanann gealltóireacht chúrsa agus dleachta d'fhorchur ar gheall-ghlacadóirí i leith geall cúrsa. Nuair a bheidh an Bórd nua ag obair, ní bheidh aon ghá Bórd Urlámhas na Gealltóireachta Meicniúla in nEirinn do choiméad beo agus tá an Bille chun an Bórd san do scur agus a maoine agus a bhfiachas d'aistriú chun an Bhúird Rásaíochta. Mar sin, beidh cumhacht ag an mBórd Rásaíochta ceadúnas fé Acht na Suimitheóirí, 1929 d'fháil chun suimitheóirí do bhunú, do choimneáil ar siúl agus d'oibriú.
Is dóigh leis an Ríaltas go mbeidh gá le Bórd den tsaghas seo nuair a bheidh aimsir na práinne thart, agus creideann siad go bhféadfar na cuspóirí atá ar aigne acu a chur i gcrích sa tslí is fearr trí shocruithe an bhille atá ós ar gcomhair anois.
The purpose of the Bill as stated in the opening words of the Long Title is "to provide for the improvement and development of horse racing and horse breeding" and it is intended as a contribution towards post-emergency planning. At present Irish racing is enjoying boom conditions similar to the conditions which existed at the end of the previous war. The Government consider, however, that unless suitable measures are taken now to provide further funds for the assistance of racing and horse breeding the industry may again experience difficult conditions such as existed during the decade from 1926-1935. It is likely that the resumption of racing on a full scale in Britain, where stakes are normally much higher than here, will result in an exodus not alone of horses which are being raced here by British owners at the moment, but also in the sale of the best quality animals by Irish owners unless the stakes to be raced for here are sufficiently attractive to induce them to retain the animals here.
Unless constructive steps are taken now it is likely, therefore, that the immediate post-war period would see a boom in the exports of bloodstock which would be likely to denude the country of the best animals with a subsequent deterioration in the quality of the horses bred here and a falling off in the value of exports in the long run. The export trade in bloodstock, as well as in horses of the hunter class, should be of great value to this country but the possibility of achieving a long-term expansion of this trade after the emergency depends largely on whether racing is in a healthy and prosperous condition here.
The central purpose of the Bill is, therefore, the provision of adequate funds to be used for the betterment of horse breeding and horse racing. As well as being a valuable industry which gives considerable employment and provides a market for many different types of agricultural and industrial products, horse racing is an amusement and recreation for a large section of the public and it is considered that the necessary funds for the purposes mentioned can be provided in the most suitable manner by the patrons of the sport, if the machinery embodied in the Bill before the House is set up.
The provisions of the Bill fall into four main parts. Part I is the usual general section concerned mainly with the definition of the various authorities mentioned in the Bill and the technical terms used. I would like to draw attention to the definition of a "course bet" which follows the definition used when such bets were subject to a betting duty of 2½ per cent. in the period 1926-1931.
The expression "Governing Body" refers to the Irish Turf Club or the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee. The first of these is a very old authority, the first edition of the Irish Racing Calender having been produced by the Turf Club in 1791, and it may be worth mentioning that at that time the club had three stewards just as it has to-day.
The Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee is of more recent origin and was formed in 1870. These two bodies have disciplinary control over the conduct of race meetings under the Rules of Racing and the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Rules. They also control the operation of the totalisator on racecourses through the size of their representation on the Board of Control for Mechanical Betting in Ireland on which body they have 12 out of 16 members.
Part II of the Bill provides for the establishment of a racing board composed of 11 members, all of whom will be appointed by the Minister for Finance after consultation with the Minister for Agriculture. Section 5 (ii) of the Bill provides that each person appointed as a member of the board shall be a person who, in the opinion of the Minister, is representative of or otherwise connected with racing (including the management of racecourses) or the ownership or breeding of bloodstock or bookmaking or other like pursuits.
Six members of the board will be persons who are members of either the Turf Club or the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee but not necessarily stewards or officials of these bodies. The functions of the Racing Board will not interfere with the disciplinary control of racing exercised by the governing bodies under the Rules of Racing and the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Rules.
The members will be appointed for a five year term of office and will be eligible for re-appointment. They will not receive any remuneration for their services as members of the board but may be reimbursed their out-of-pocket expenses incurred in connection with the business of the board. The members will appoint their own chairman who will hold office for a period of a year.
The board will have at its disposal moneys arising from totalisator betting and from a levy on course bets with bookmakers. It will have, in addition, power to borrow up to £20,000 or in excess of that sum with the consent of the Minister for Finance. The board is also being given power to hold a licence under the Totalisator Act, 1929. It may spend the moneys at its disposal on the establishment and equipment of racecourses but must first obtain the consent of the governing bodies. This is a permissive power and may not be used by the board in the immediate future. In addition the board may make grants or loans for many purposes including the increase of stake money, the reduction of entrance fees and similar charges, the payment of the carriage of horses competing at race meetings, the reduction of admission charges to the public, the improvement of racecourses and the amenities thereof, and other purposes conducive to the improvement of horse-racing, the breeding of horses and the development of the export trade in horses.
In this connection, the board will have certain powers of control. It may attach to any grants or loans made by it such conditions as it thinks proper and it may, after consultation with the governing bodies, make regulations controlling the manner in which racecourses, at which racing is authorised by the governing bodies, are to be managed and controlled, with the object of securing that in the management and control of racecourses service uniformly satisfactory to the industry and to the racing public is rendered by these executives. Such regulations may require the executives to keep their books in the prescribed manner, to furnish returns and information required by the board and to produce accounts and records. The board is also being given considerable powers over course bookmakers by virtue of the issue of course betting permits and of the regulations for the collection of levy. All regulations made by the board for the latter purpose will be subject to the consent of the Minister for Finance.
Part III of the Bill provides for the granting by the racing board of permits authorising bookmakers to carry on their business at racecourses.
Without such a permit it will, under the terms of the Bill, be unlawful for a bookmaker to conduct business at a racecourse. Deputies will recollect that the Irish Racing Commission which was set up by the Turf Club and the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee in 1942, reported in favour of the restriction of permission to carry on course-betting to existing course-bookmakers, with the intent that the business should be gradually extinguished. The Government have not adopted the view that bookmakers should be gradually banished from Irish racecourses, but it has been found necessary to provide in the Bill that through the medium of the course-betting permits, the Racing Board will have a measure of control over bookmakers carrying on business on racecourses, particularly having regard to the provisions in the Bill for the collection of a levy on course bets. The statutory recognition thus given to the business of course-betting by the Bill can be regarded by the bookmakers as a welcome release from the danger that steps might be taken, as recommended by the Irish Racing Commission, to extinguish the business and to concentrate all course-betting on the totalisator.
The third part of the Bill also provides for the collection by the Racing Board of a levy on course bets. The amount of the levy, which will be fixed by the board with the consent of the Minister for Finance will, under the terms of the Bill, not exceed 5 per cent. of each course bet. The levy will be payable by the bookmaker on the amount of each course bet placed with him. It is intended that the levy should be passed on to the backer, and the bookmakers should ensure that it will in fact be borne by the betting public. I have little doubt but that the Racing Board will encourage bookmakers to observe a uniform practice in this respect. It will be appreciated that the transfer to the Racing Board of this power to collect a levy on course bets deprives the Minister for Finance of a potential source of revenue for the Exchequer, and in that way the measure may be regarded as an important contribution by the State towards the improvement and development of horse racing and horse breeding.
It is intended that the regulations to be made by the Racing Board for securing the payment of the levy will follow on the lines of the existing Betting Duty Regulations which are administered by the Revenue Commissioners for the collection of the existing duty on shop bets. Accordingly, the Bill provides that bookmakers may either pay the levy on the basis of returns furnished by them, or may purchase Levy Paid Betting Sheets from the board. The adoption of this procedure will make the filling up of their returns simpler for bookmakers who will, thus, have much the same procedure for the payment of the levy on course bets as exists at present for the payment of the duty on shop bets.
Part IV provides for the dissolution of the existing Board of Control for Mechanical Betting in Ireland, and for the transfer of its assets and liabilities to the Racing Board, which will thereafter become the licensee for the purpose of totalisator betting. The Board of Control, since its establishment in 1930, has carried on its business with the greatest efficiency and success, but in view of the wider functions to be entrusted to the new board constituted under the Bill, a more representative body than the Board of Control is now required. It would be an unnecessary duplication of services to continue the Board of Control in addition to the Racing Board.
A feature of racing here in recent years has been the great success of totalisator betting, and the Government have a deep appreciation of the services rendered voluntarily and with great public spirit by the members of the Board of Control for Mechanical Betting. In the first year of its operation—1930—the turn-over was only £99,000, and as the duty on course betting was in operation at the time, the gross income of the board was only £7,425.
The board went through a difficult period subsequently with a large overdraft which had been incurred in connection with the erection of totalisator buildings on racecourses. Progress was slow for some time but the initial difficulties had been surmounted before the emergency period when, with the limitations on racing in Great Britain and the retention in Ireland of more horses of first grade quality which would normally have been sold for export to other countries, Irish racing entered on the present period of prosperity which has been affected to some extent by transport difficulties. As a result of the careful constructive work of the previous decade, the board was able to take full advantage of this prosperity. Its turnover reached the record figure of £486,500 in 1944, giving a gross income of £48,600 derived from the 10 per cent. deduction made from all sums staked with the totalisator. In the circumstances, I would like to take this opportunity to convey to the members of the board the thanks of the Government for the manner in which the totalisator has been conducted by them during the past 15 years.
In addition to the four main parts of the Bill, provision is made in Part V for the giving of legal effect to an exclusion order made by either the Turf Club or the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee against any person in respect of racecourses where racing is carried on under their rules.
I hope that the Bill will meet with the general approval of all Parties in the House. It provides an organisation for securing, through the activities of this representative Racing Board, the betterment of racing and breeding in the coming years. It is important that the Bill should be enacted as soon as possible and I ask for the co-operation of the House in achieving this.