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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 28 Apr 1994

Vol. 442 No. 2

Irish Horseracing Industry Bill, 1994: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time".

In one of my first contributions in this House on a budget debate I called for the setting up of a single authority to run the horseracing industry. Having listened to the contributions of Opposition Deputies, one would think that the Minister was introducing measures which the industry had not sought and did not want. The opposite is the case. The Minister and his officials had consultations with the various sectors in the racing industry over a long time.

This Bill proposes to dissolve the Racing Board and establish a single authority to run the racing industry. People have objected to some minor points in the Bill for their own reasons, but by and large the racing industry is delighted with the steps being taken by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Deputy Joe Walsh. The racing industry is happy to have a Government in power which knows the industry and what it needs and is about to put its money where its mouth is.

The racing industry has provided employment for many years. The Turf Club was established more than 200 years ago and the Racing Board was set up approximately 50 years ago. Until 1989 the racing industry, which has been one of our most successful industries, received no financial assistance from the Government. Those involved in the industry knew that funding was badly needed if the industry was to compete successfully with the racing industries in Britain, France and other countries and, as a leisure industry, with other industries in Ireland. The Minister has set about rectifying this problem by giving the industry the necessary injection of capital it requires and putting it on a sound basis.

In 1989 the Government made a contribution to the racing industry for the first time ever, and this contribution has been continued each year since then. The Minister has agreed to more than double the allocation of £3 million which the industry has received for the past four years to approximately £6.75 million this year.

Deputy Doyle argued that 2 per cent of off-course betting receipts should be allocated to the racing industry each year. Last year off-course betting amounted to £350 million and the percentage of that bet on Irish racing was very small — punters bet on many other sports also. Bookmakers can see the niche in the market and sell customers the products they want.

I estimate that 65 per cent of the turnover in betting shops today is on other racing activities and the remainder on horse racing. There is greyhound racing, football, golf and a number of other sporting activities, but if money was directly allocated to the racing industry from off-course betting it would merely open up similar avenues or possibilities for other organisations; there would be nothing to prevent the GUI or FAI seeking a percentage. The racing industry here, without any assistance, has provided tremendous employment over many years. As its potential is now fully acknowledged the time has come for the industry to be assisted. I am delighted that the Minister has set about doing so.

While people might be very critical of the Turf Club and the Racing Board, individually they have made a tremendous contribution to our racing industry. They must have been doing something right or the industry would not be in its present good state although many ills remain to be cured. However, compared with the industry in other countries, it is not as bad as we are sometimes led to believe. While both organisations have made a tremendous contribution to the industry, together they have not worked well, which has cost the industry dearly. The Minister's proposal to establish one Horseracing Authority is all the more welcome for that reason.

I want to draw a few comparisons between the racing industry here and elsewhere. I listened to Deputy O'Malley talk here last week about Hong Kong. People sometimes tend to forget that our population is a mere 3.5 million, not 35 million or 350 million. In establishing this new Horseracing Authority, we must ensure that it will not be comprised of a group of people merely talking to themselves but of those who have been directly involved in the activities of the Racing Board and the Turf Club. These people will have a serious task ahead. It will be important that the Minister gives them the right riding instructions and ensures that they are carried out. Therefore, the appointment of appropriate members will be of immense importance.

In recent times an SP office was set up on the track at Leopardstown, much welcomed by the majority of racegoers and widely used. However, because bookmakers on the track objected and said it reduced their take on the day, the office was closed. That type of confrontation cannot be allowed to continue. There are sectoral interests within the racing industry very keen to defend their little patch. We must examine the racing industry and not allow some sectors to over-influence policy. I hope that this new Authority will ascertain consumer needs, the fact that something may have worked well in recent years is not sufficient justification for its continuance. The industry is in need of a major shakeup.

I might now draw some comparison between horses in training here and those in Britain. Last year there were approximately 4,750 horses in training here, not all of which would have run but there were 1,800 races during the year involving £12.5 million in prize money, giving average prize money for each race of just below £7,000. In Britain there were approximately 11,000 racehorses in training last year involved in 7,162 races with prize money slightly in excess of £51 million, again averaging out at a little over £7,000 per race. Therefore, there is little or no difference between the prize money here and in Britain but we have a greater number of horses competing; for every race run here there are 2.63 horses whereas the corresponding figure in Britain would be 1.53. We have too many horses and the biggest criticism is that there is much "stopping" engaged in whereas, if the truth were known, it would be very easy to stop many of them; the greatest difficulty is to get them going. I suppose the market will sort out that difficulty but, in the meantime, it is not helping the racing industry.

We have 300 trainers nationwide whereas in Britain there are approximately 550. It is nothing short of a miracle that we have so many. I do not know how some survive but it would appear they are willing to take a chance and, without knowing what lies ahead, are prepared to battle on. I wish them all well. They are a source of tremendous employment, particularly in Kildare, and we have seen many spring up nationwide. Many trainers are people who, on leaving school, become involved in racing, many of whom remain in the industry for the remainder of their lifetime. I should like to see a more professional approach to their training. The racing centre at the Curragh engages in training on a small scale but has an almost 100 per cent success rate in finding employment for their trainees at the end of each session. Perhaps the Minister for Enterprise and Employment would examine that matter with a view to providing some type of financial assistance to these apprentices.

The Minister referred to the serious decline in on-course betting in recent years. No doubt people involved in the racing industry argue that we are very dependent on a small number of punters, big betters, who created a big stir in the ring when they moved. However, many of them are not as active as heretofore. leading to a major decline in on-course betting.

When established this new Authority should endeavour to render racing activities more attractive to families generally. It has become a very expensive outing for them with admission charges, placing a few bets and purchasing drinks and meals. If we are to revitalise the racing industry it is particularly important that admission fees are reviewed. We have seen considerable improvement in the facilitites provided at a number of tracks nationwide, which must continue, because there is enormous competition overall within the leisure industry. It is vital that the racing industry acknowledges that competition and copes with it.

It must be difficult for people not involved in racing to understand some of the terms used. The word "novice" is frequently used — it has nothing to do with religious orders — for a young horse starting out who has not won and is normally associated with the national hunt; a maiden in the Curragh is a two or three year old who has not won a race; a short head, which has nothing to do with the size of the horse's head, is the term used for the winning margin. It would be no harm to produce a booklet explaining some of the racing terms. It may not be a best seller but it would make interesting reading.

I have serious reservations about section 19 which deals with the race-fixtures committee and I wonder whether it is necessary. It states:

(1) The Authority shall establish a committee ("the race-fixtures committee") to recommend in accordance with the terms of reference decided by the Authority the fixing of the annual list of race-fixtures.

(2) The members of the race-fixtures committee shall be appointed by the Authority and shall consist of the following members—

(a) a chairman who shall be both a member of the Authority and a steward of the Racing Regulatory Body, . . .

If we are setting up a horseracing authority we ought to tell them exactly what is required rather than restrain them in this manner.

The matter of race fixtures is a very important issue and has caused problems for me on a number of Sundays. Frequently hurling and football matches in Croke Park take place on the same day as race meetings. In Kildare the Moyglare stakes has clashed with the county final on a number of occasions. It is difficult to be in two places at the one time, although I would like to be. When the race-fixtures committee is setting out the list of fixtures for the year consideration should be given to other sports to try to avoid clashes. I realise it is not easy as we have only 52 Sundays in the year. While racing does not take place all the year round, summer racing is very popular. In the case of important races it is important to avoid such clashes in the future.

The attractiveness of racing and what has gone wrong with it has received much publicity recently. A number of people in Kildare who are keen racegoers have no hesitation in selecting the national hunt as being much more popular than flat racing. From a breeding point of view it is important to have a number of group races to maintain the standard of Irish racing but it is not proving attractive to the customer.

During the next couple of years we should try to put in more handicaps rather than have cards covered with group races and maidens in the Curragh. We must have more open racing on which punters are prepared to bet. Many of the races for two and three year old maidens have been dominated by two or three trainers and in many cases there are odds on favourites in the races which turns people off and they lose interest. We will have to restore the racing industry to a healthy state and make Ireland the greatest racing country in the world.

I compliment the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Deputy Walsh, on the initiative he has taken. The racing industry is indebted to him. He is a man who understands racing, knows what it is about and knows what it needs. Despite opposition from a few quarters, the racing industry respects and acknowledges what he is trying to do. I have no doubt it will be a success but when the authority is being put in place I appeal to him to appoint people who will represent the overall industry and not to forget the consumer. I agree with the attitude of the Racing Club of Ireland, to which reference was made last week. The opinions of consumers must be sought on this occasion and acted on. I thank the Minister and wish him every success. I think he is on a winner.

This Bill is close to my heart. After politics and my family my greatest fascination and passion is racing. When my political career is over, however long or short it may be, I intend to make my entire living or as much as possible from the racing industry. The views I will express are entirely my own; I am not representing my party. I admit I have a vested interest. I have a serious interest in the off-course business which I hope to further. I would like to give a broad welcome to the Bill.

I am deeply concerned about the future of the Irish racing industry. I go racing frequently and I hope to be in Punchestown later today. On a yearly basis I see the trend reflected in the figures. Legalised on-course betting has diminished from over £100 million to approximately £75 million. Any business that suffered that level of decline in turnover would have to ask the most serious questions about its future. If that happened in my business or in any business you would have to re-appraise your situation.

I have heard this Bill being criticised. I read the Racing Post every day, Sporting Life and the Irish Field and I have read the criticisms by many people who are respected in the racing industry. I heard Mr. Jonathan Irwin on the radio the other day, members of the Turf Club and so on. I am conscious of the criticism that we do not want to get the State more involved in the racing industry and that the integrity of the people who have served us for 200 years should not be undermined. The racing industry is coming to the taxpayer looking for £6 million or £7 million per year. Whether this money goes to health, education or social welfare the taxpayer is entitled to see how this money is spent. I do not believe the representatives of the Turf Club, the racing industry, can say: “Give us the money but hands off in terms of approach”. That is not on in the nineties. That reality has not dawned on some people in the racing industry. That is separate from the integrity of racing rules, the fairness of racing, the judges, the starting, the steward's inquiries and so on. The business of racing needs to be modernised and brought into a proper context of competing with other leisure industries.

I have heard much nonsense about revenue from off-course racing being the entitlement of on-course racing. It is utter rubbish. The biggest single new produce in off-course betting offices is the Lotto. People can bet on three out of six numbers, on the first or on any combination of numbers and get huge odds. They bet every Wednesday and Saturday.

Last Monday a race meeting in Sligo was called off due to bad drainage on the course. That would not have made one whit of difference to the turnover of off-course betting. The principal events that account for off-course betting turnover are (1) British racing, (2) dog racing, (3) Irish racing, with sports betting being the largest growth market, that is the betting on the snooker championships, the US Golf Open, lottery and football coupons. Paddy Power, the largest Irish chain of bookmakers, see future growth in the off course industry from attracting more women, and others who do not go racing, to come into betting offices. The off-course betting industry does not owe Irish racing anything. If six or seven tracks were to close down in the morning it would not affect turnover in off-course offices. As long as Satellite Information Service, SIS, televises racing from South Africa, Hong Kong, Sedgefield, Cheltenham and dog racing at Hackney the punter will bet on it. If the Irish industry was really concerned about off-course betting they would have arranged for televised broadcasts of Irish meetings through the SIS. Satellite Information Service is the life-blood of off-course betting because the punter can see the racing live on television and the betting shows. If Irish racing wanted to boost off-course betting turnover the first thing it would do would be to join the Satellite Information Service and benefit from the revenue generated.

I have heard the racehorse trainer, Mr. Jim Bolger, and Mr. Denis Brosnahan and so on criticise this Bill. I have the highest regard for those people and they understand what is needed to modernise the industry. They deserve a great deal more credit for the work they are doing. Mr. Moriarity and Mr. Dowling deserve our praise for trying to reach a consensus but the single failure is that the racing industry think like producers, and this is reflected in the Bill.

I recall a crisis in the American motor industry and the focus on the problems of the car manufacturers instead of the consumers. Deputy Seán Power rightly raised the issue of off-course betting offices on the track. This facility is available on every track in the United Kingdom and one can place multiple bets and bets on all sporting events in these offices, but that service is not available in Ireland. Oncourse bookmakers do a limited amount of betting on an SP basis but I am told that irrespective of the Bill they will stop it; that is one example of the producer, the bookmaker, stopping what is in the consumer's interest.

The racing industry is principally run for horse owners and not for consumers. A glance at the composition of race cards and fixtures shows that they are primarily geared to deal with horse owners. I can understand the plight of horse owners. Racehorse ownership is a most ill-advised investment and one should be able to afford to lose any money invested. It is not an economic proposition. I could recount a litany of stories about trainers, but I will not bore the House.

If racehorse owners want to attract more money into racing they must realise that the life-blood of racing comes from the 5 per cent levy that on-course bookmakers deduct on bets. That will be the source of revenue. They may get £3 million-£6 million from the taxpayer but that will not be the determining factor for the future of racing. The levy will decide its future. All policies must be geared to the single objective of increasing the yield from the levy that has diminished so rapidly during the past five years. The Minister should not be fobbed off by those claiming it is the result of recession. There is no recession in the off-course betting industry and turnover has grown by at least 5 per cent each year. The Exchequer returns bear out that there is no slump or decline in betting; the success of the national lottery is one example. People are betting more than ever but they are not turning up at race courses. Racing is run to suit horse owners but this is very short-sighted. Unless the levy is raised, the prize money will not make it worthwhile to own a horse. We need to modernise the industry and gear everything to increasing the yield from the levy.

Those appointed to the board should have a businesslike approach. I see Irish racing going the same way as dog racing. I was at a dog track on Monday night and they price up prices only 30 seconds before the race and one could not get £200 on a dog. It is a mickey mouse business. Racing is going in the same direction, the pricing is going up later and bookmakers will tell you that they have a one horse book and the rags do not count. It is not competitive enough. The industry needs to be geared up in order to have competitive racing.

I will now deal with specific matters — my colleague, Deputy Doyle, will be tabling amendments on these sections. Section 45 deals with appeals against sanctions of the racing regulatory body. Subsection (2) states:

The Racing Regulatory Body shall establish an appeals procedure to ensure that any appeal referred to in subsection (1) may be heard in a fair and impartial manner.

Surely it should be "shall be". That may sound insignificant but I can give examples. It is outrageous that there is a fine of £25 if one does not run a horse that has been declared overnight — even though the horse is dead. There is a standard fine of £25 and no excuse is acceptable. Small trainers have enough difficulties without having to put up with that nonsense. If, in error, a horse is double entered in two races, there is an automatic fine of £100. That is an outdated practice.

Part IV deals with the racing industry. I declare a vested interest and I would like to be financially involved in on-course betting. Let us see how the system works. If a licensed, registered bookmaker wants to operate on the course, the first thing he must do is comply with the rules of on-course bookmakers. He must go to the end of the line as pitches are in order of seniority. At the end of the line one has to lay 9:4, about a 7:4 shot, to get it into the back. That causes two problems, first, there is a one horse book — the whole theory of betting is that you lay to lose each horse to the same amount and have a rounded book and anything over 100 per cent is profit. Second, one cannot get a rounded book because the flow of punters is not passing the end of the line and are all up at the busy end where the senior operators are. One may have only two horses laid on one's book and because one is laying over odds and does not have a rounded book one goes out of business. The catch is that one must wait at the end of the line for five years before being allowed to buy a pitch up the line.

If I had enough money and someone was prepared to sell I could buy a betting office anywhere in this country. There are bookmakers prepared to sell pitches but they cannot do so because it is not possible for those at the end of the line with one horse books to make a living. As a result bookmakers who lay virtually nothing in terms of a stake are retaining pitches and preventing new entrants from entering the business.

I ask the Minister to accept an amendment to section 48 under which the Irish Horseracing Authority would allow those with two years' experience to buy a pitch which should go to the highest bidder. This will only arise where someone wishes to sell, if someone has a son or an employee they will not want to sell a pitch. I ask the Minister to impose a change — the five year rule is not set down in legislation, it is a bookmakers' rule — and introduce a two year rule.

Unless the racing industry adopts wholeheartedly the concept of Sunday racing it will encounter further problems with the levy. I am aware that many people involved in the industry, including bookmaker clerks and racecourse attendants, do not like to work on a Sunday and that a dispute about overtime payments caused a difficulty with the fixture list last year. All the fixtures listed for last year did not go ahead and this led to difficulties with funding.

Sunday racing is here to stay. Last Sunday the dog track in Kilkenny which, like many others, is experiencing difficulties, held a meeting as an experiment and it was an outstanding success. People attended who had never gone greyhound racing. Many people work a six day week and we have to focus on the consumer.

I ask the Minister to consider widening the ambit of the tote. The tote in the United Kingdom has ambitious plans to develop its principal products, the jackpot and the placepot, and offer them off course. Corals has a link with its terminals nationwide. The totalisator investors operate on a credit basis — I used to be one of their clients — but this is a limited service. In respect of the main pools there should be a link with terminals and facilities.

The composition of the Authority is a vexed question and has been the subject of much debate. I have already suggested that the Minister should appoint those who know how to run a leisure business given that racing has to compete with bowls, Gaelic games and other sports. It must be successful in selling its products.

The racecourses — AIRS — will have two representatives on the Authority. By virtue of the fact that the Racing Board owns Mallow and Leopardstown racecourses and that the Curragh is owned by the Turf Club, racecourses are well represented. This would give the Minister more scope if he decides to amend the Bill.

I make a special plea on behalf of the Racing Club of Ireland. I have attended the annual dinner of this organisation which is non-political and genuinely interested in improving racecourse facilities. It has given awards to racecourses and to jockeys, owners and trainers to mark great achievements. It has been a good ambassador for the business. In Britain racing clubs are common; they are the next relation of syndicates of racehorse owners. Racing clubs should, therefore, be supported. The Minister would do himself much good if he appointed a representative of the Racing Club of Ireland.

Many myths have been perpetrated about the Bill. Those involved in off-course betting owe nothing to the racing industry; they can get on fine without Irish racing. I support the injection of cash by the taxpayer into the industry because of the 20,000 jobs involved but if the taxpayer makes that investment it is only reasonable that there should be a root and branch reform to modernise the industry to make it consumer driven and its main mission should be to increase the racing levy. Unless it thinks commercially it will not think successfully.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Costello.

Is that satisfactory? Agreed.

I welcome this important legislation dealing with an indigenous industry which has a wonderful tradition and great potential which has still not been realised. Our horses are the best in the world and this is a tribute to those who have been involved in the industry throughout the years, including breeders, trainers and jockeys, especially in Kildare, Tipperary and parts of Cork, where the industry is particularly strong.

This significant industry employs 25,000 to 30,000 people. If someone was to announce the creation of 25,000 jobs it would be warmly welcomed. When the industry is going well there is a boom in employment. For instance, there has been a significant increase in employment in the surrounding areas arising from the success of the Coolmore Stud in County Tipperary where great horses have been produced.

It is a matter of considerable concern that the industry has been in decline in recent years. Attendances at race meetings have fallen and, with the decline in on course betting, has to be addressed. The two are interlinked and it is appropriate that we are tackling these problems by putting a legislative framework in place. We need to make racing more attractive for the general public and adopt a much more businesslike approach.

The Bill will not satisfy everyone and it has been the subject of much criticism. For every proposal there is a counter proposal which merits debate in the media and on radio programmes, which is desirable. While I am concerned about some of the details it is necessary to amend the legislative framework covering the industry which was put in place almost 50 years ago and modified approximately 20 years ago. There had been many changes in the meantime in relation to the production, management, care, feeding and training of racehorses which have had an impact on the industry. People's attitudes have also changed and they now expect better facilities. In addition standards have improved. It is important, therefore, to modernise the industry.

When the original legislation was enacted 50 years ago there was no television. Deputy Yates referred to its impact on the industry and he is well qualified to speak about that matter. We have to face reality and make adjustments.

Much criticism has been expressed about some aspects of the Bill but I should acknowledge that it has been welcomed by many of those involved in the industry, including some of the leading trainers. Although there has been a great deal of criticism of the Bill, many people in the industry welcome it and are very much in favour of its general principles. The debate has been coloured by people's concerns about the Turf Club which has been a major influence in Irish racing for the past 200 years. They have made a major contribution and nobody would want to detract from that. However, time moves on and other interests have a legitimate right to be represented in the industry.

The Bill ensures that breeders, trainers and the general public will be heard at the top table. A substantial amount of taxpayers' money goes into the industry. It is, therefore, particularly important that the interests and concerns of consumers should be a top priority. Otherwise the industry cannot succeed.

The growing involvement of business people in the industry in the last ten to 15 years has been important, and has resulted in new developments. It is important that the industry be run in a business-like way that is dominated by market concerns and the involvement of the public and that the interests of the punters should be represented on the Authority. I hope the Minister will take that into account in putting the Authority together.

There is a rule of thumb in the industry that three wins a year are necessary to pay the cost of keeping a horse in training. However, most people in the industry do not have a chance of attaining that level of success — 95 per cent of people who own horses lose money on them. Horseracing is, in many ways, a sport for those who have money that they can afford to lose. In the context of the value of the prize money, Deputy Power mentioned that there are about 4,700 horses in training at a cost of £10,000 a year each. About £50 million is spent on training every year. That is an important expenditure and there may be some scope for lottery type projects, although I am somewhat reluctant even to mention the term because it has become an all-purpose political joke that politicians resort to when they can think of nothing better to say.

I am particularly concerned that this country should continue to invest a significant amount of money in research into the horse industry, including improved training and management techniques, improved breeding methods and the treatment of injured horses. This has been neglected but if we are to protect our reputation as a producer of great horses, a producer of winners, it is essential that we invest in research.

I am concerned about the effect of section 53 on some of the people working in the industry. It could result in their having to pay to go to work because they will have to pay to get onto a racecourse. The Minister should look at this in the context of the concerns of SIPTU which represents these people.

I am pleased that the Minister recently attended a race meeting in the North and met his counterpart there, the Northern Ireland Secretary of the Department of Agriculture. I hope he had a good day and that he won a few pounds. It is particularly important that he went there. There is some scope in this Bill for improving contacts between this part of Ireland and the people in County Down particularly who have a tradition of racing.

I thank Deputy Upton for sharing his time with me. I compliment the Minister on his foray into Northern Ireland and trust he was successful on the course. I welcome the establishment of a horseracing authority to replace the racing board.

The horseracing industry is one of our oldest industries, one of the great sports of Irish life. Every farmer in every corner of Ireland who has or has had a horse has hoped to find himself with a winner at some horse show and that he could go on to breed. We have a multi-million pound industry and are widely recognised as a producer of fine bloodstock. Our annual sales at Goffs attract some of the wealthiest buyers in the world and our shows at the RDS in spring and summer are the highlight of the calendar of sporting activities.

The industry is most important in the context of the leisure industry, necessitating the encouragement of sporting activities, betting and the development of bloodstock that can compete with the best in showjumping, racing, etc. Ordinary farm horses, too, might have potential for breeding.

The Casual Trading Bill provides that everybody who trades casually must have a licence or permit and a tax clearance certificate. I am concerned that it might have implications for the small farmer or trader selling a horse or pony at the Ballinasloe horse fair, the Connemara pony fair or the Maam Cross fair. The farmer selling an animal would not be trading in a mart but, under the Casual Trading Bill, he will become a casual trader and be obliged to have a licence and a permit from the local authority to carry on his business. It would be a shame if legislation which is intended to cover people trading in large scale electrical goods at the side of the road, some of which might be smuggled from another part of the country, were to make it impossible for people to engage in traditional horse trading. That would be very harmful to the small horse fairs around the country, not to mention the horse fair at Smithfield itself. Although that needs to be regulated in other ways, it should not be necessary to have a licence or a permit to sell an animal.

I welcome the rules and regulations which will help to maintain the integrity of the industry. The provision of a code of ethics is important for the Authority and its staff as is the accountability that goes with having to produce annual reports and other reports requested from time to time by the Minister.

I understand Irish bookmakers are not as generous as our British counterparts in terms of prize money. It is not possible to get as good a starting price at racecourses here as in Britain and, proportionately, our bookmakers appear to make greater profits. What are the Minister's views on that?

Section 53 could oblige bookmakers assistants to pay an admission fee to their place of work. It is somewhat contradictory to impose that type of charge if we are trying to do something about the 300,000 people who are unemployed. Whatever about the bookmaker having to pay an admission charge, his or her assistant should be allowed free access. I fail to understand why such employees should be charged for admission. They are not members of the public out for a day's enjoyment, they are doing their work. I understand the Minister's predecessor, Senator O'Kennedy, made a commitment in 1989, when legislation on this was being mooted, that no such charge would be imposed. The Minister should discuss the matter with him and delete that provision in section 53. I understand also that it is contrary to a deal negotiated by SIPTU on behalf of bookmakers' assistants under which they were guaranteed free admission to racecourses to work.

My main concern, if the charge is passed on to the bookmakers, is that it could militate against bookmakers employing assistants. Alternatively, if it is not, it might be worthwhile for assistants to do such work having regard to their low rates of pay.

Section 53 deals also with having SP offices at racecourses. What is the rationale behind that? SP offices are more than adequately provided for by the tote at racecourses from which considerable benefits accrue to the State. As there has been a reduction in betting at racecourses it seems there is sufficient competion there without introducing more. This would also interfere with employment at racecourses. Will the Minister examine those two provisions in section 53, particularly that relating to bookmakers' assistants? We should do nothing to deter employment in the industry. The objective of the legislation is to enhance employment, to improve the industry, to make it more competitive, to increase standards and to ensure that it operates in a streamlined fashion.

I am grateful for the opportunity to make a brief contribution on the Irish Horseracing Industry Bill. I have a number of concerns about the Bill, not least some financial concerns which the House should address. This Bill falls short of what is needed in the industry, I do not often talk here about matters relating to the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, but this matter has significant implications for our entire commercial and industry base.

The racing industry owes much gratitude to the late Joe McGrath. Through his vision the racing board was set up in 1945.

The scenario leading to the Irish Horseracing Industry Bill shows that Irish racing is in a poor state. There are two bodies running the industry, the Irish Racing Board and the Irish Turf Club. The Irish Racing Board is a semi-State body responsible for the collection of on-track bookmakers' levies, the running of the tote and the management of racecourses such as Leopardstown, Navan and Tipperary. Paragraph 5 of the explanatory memorandum states that the enactment of this Bill will have no financial or staffing implications for Government Departments or local authorities. Had this come to my attention during my period as chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, I would have had it examined. I understand that body is crippled by poor management, over-staffing and standards which need to be revitalised. It runs the only tote in the world which is losing money. That should be examined by the Committee of Public Accounts. I accept there is a need to overhaul the industry, but the Minister is not going about it the right way and there are reservations in the industry about it.

The Irish Turf Club which has been running the industry here for the past 200 years has a worldwide reputation for integrity. It is worth noting that two former Taoisigh, Mr. Haughey and Mr. Cosgrave, are members of that body. It is sometimes criticised for failing to promote the industry, but that is not its job. It is the responsibility of the Irish Racing Board. It is strange that despite the chairman of the racing board being a member of the Turf Club, the relationship between the two bodies is dire. There is great unease in the industry that in the past 18 months communications between the two has been virtually non-existent.

I have argued for some time that one of the reasons for our high unemployment level is that we do not adequately promote ourselves abroad. As Lord Mayor of Dublin I set up the Dublin International Sports Council and I am grateful for the interest shown in the work of that body by Members of this House, including the Taoiseach. The objective of the council is to promote Dublin as a city where major sporting events can be held. When people hear of Ireland it is often because of a tragedy in Northern Ireland. Dublin and Belfast appear to be neighbouring villages on a map of Ireland. It is tragic that people abroad hear about us for negative reasons. Our economic indicators have been excellent for many years. Our debt-GNP ratio is under control. Our rate of inflation is the lowest in Europe. Our growth rate over a number of years has been twice the European average. We have one of the youngest and best educated populations in Western Europe. In the light of such good indicators why do we have such a high rate of unemployment? The reason is that we have not attracted sufficient investment. Sport is an ideal opportunity for us to promote Dublin and Ireland. People would hear of us for positive reasons. When people hear such reports hotel groups such as Hyatt, who do not have a Dublin location, will begin to consider it.

Our horse industry has a very high international reputation, so much so that it was able to attract the world equestrian games which will be held in the RDS and at Punchestown. We are in danger of losing our good reputation because of the manner in which our industry is organised. The Bill does not address the shortcomings in the industry. I pay tribute to the Minister for Tourism and Trade for his involvement in bringing that major event here. I also pay tribute to the Dublin International Sports Council, particularly Mr. Conor Crowley and others involved in that success. They have shown what can be achieved. That achievement was possible because we have such a high international reputation in horse racing and the horse industry.

I wonder why the divergence between the Turf Club and the Irish Racing Board has developed and why the tote is the only one in the world that loses money. That is worthy of inquiry by the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Committee of Public Accounts. This Bill is devoid of innovation in addressing the crisis in the racing industry.

Section 10 deals with the powers of the racing authority which are almost all-embracing and allow the Racing Regulatory Body, formerly the Turf Club, to oversee the integrity of race meetings. That does not appear to be a reasonable balance or a necessary provision and the Minister should reconsider it before Committee Stage.

Many people are offended by section 27 and find its provisions unacceptable. That section states:

The Minister may from time to time, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, advance to the Authority out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas, such sums as the Minister may determine for the purpose of expenditure by the Authority in the performance of its functions.

The Bill is full of that type of unnecessary restriction and interference. The section is unacceptable because Ireland is the only country in which there is no relationship between the horseracing industry and the off-track betting industry. Countries in which racing flourishes are those which have struck a deal between the Government and the industry about the division of income from a levy or tax generated from off-track betting. A possible division of 10 per cent of the off-track levy is that it should be split so as to give the Government a return of 7.5 per cent and the industry 2.5 per cent.

A minority report of the Killanin Commission suggested the betting industry should be regarded as a two island one and that if the Irish tax levy fell below that of the UK the larger UK book-making chains should site their settling house headquarters in Dublin, thereby creating an export betting market. That would be an exceptional achievement by our industry and is something that should be pursued. Nothing in this Bill suggests such thinking. It would be better if the industry had a body with such prestige located here which would greatly contribute to it. The Minister should consider that possibility.

Would it not be better for the industry to rely on a fixed percentage which it could increase through its initiative and performance rather than rely on the dubious and what some people regard as the odius alternative of ministerial grants or hand-outs? The Department responsible for the industry is not the Department of Social Welfare. The mentality in the Department that addresses itself to the issues facing farmers is now addressing itself to those that face the Irish horse racing industry. The industry is full of many self-starters, innovative and capable people who do not need a hand-out mentality. It would be welcome if those people were given a greater deal of independence.

Section 28 provides that accounts shall be produced within six months by the racing authority. The racing board has yet to publish its accounts for the fiscal year 1992-93 despite the fact that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry sought and obtained an additional £1 million last December to make up the deficit the racing board had created in 1993, the first deficit in its history. I am sure the Minister will agree that matter should be studied more closely by the House.

Section 34 (b) (ii) precludes the tote being allowed trade off-track. Many people view that as an unnecessary restriction. The Minister should consider amending that provision on Committee Stage.

Having failed dismally to run an efficient and profitable tote it seems foolish that a semi-State body should be allowed to set up as a book-maker in competition with the private sector, as provided for in section 35. If it cannot run a tote will it be able to run a private book-making service and will the public have confidence in it?

Section 39 sets out the role of the Racing Regulatory Body whose functions are restricted to services at individual race meetings. Section 39 (d) states that officers of the former Turf Club will have to seek the permission of the Racing Regulatory Board to attend international conferences of racing authorities. That is an unwarranted interference and a humiliation for the Turf Board. Such permission is hardly necessary. The Minister should indicate the source of that request and the necessity for such a restriction.

Section 44 gives the Authority a power the former body did not have and the Minister might explain the necessity for it. Perhaps it is beneficial. Why is it necessary that the new Authority should have power in respect of the alteration of rules of racing? There is a strange omission in Part III in that there is no mention of who is to be responsible for the licensing of trainers, jockeys and so on, a power that lay with the Turf Club. Will the Minister give his views on that matter, or does he intend introducing an amendment on Committee Stage to deal with it?

Section 53 deals with regulations for authorised bookmakers. All the items under subsection (1) (a) to (e) should be the commercial decision of racecourse management rather than of the Authority. If the forerunner to the Authority is anything to go by, one could not have great confidence in its commercial judgment and its ability to run a commercial exercise. That matter needs to be addressed.

In subsection (2) of this section there is a restrictive clause which should be deleted. The most successful racecourses will strive for a seven day, multi-use facility. When Croke Park is refurbished it will be used for events other than Gaelic games, and we are kidding ourselves if we think that will not be the case. People will not take corporate boxes in Croke Park if they can attend only an occasional game in the year. The name of the game is to use the facility all-year round. Let us take Leopardstown as an example. Clients who patronise Leopardstown racecourse on non-race days will be prevented from using the betting shop facilities as, under this clause, it will be closed. Is that a necessary requirement? I ask the Minister to consider that matter on Committee Stage.

Will the Minister tell the House why subsection (3) (a) of section 59 is necessary? That subsection states:

An authorised racecourse shall be authorised for a period of five years—

(i) in the case of a first racecourse authorisation, from such date as the Authority may determine, or

(ii) in the case of a second or subsequent racecourse authorisation, from the day after the expiry of the last authorisation.

What is the purpose of this subsection? I do not understand why it is necessary.

Sections 60 and 61 are much too restrictive. Sections 65 and 66 seem sensible amendments to the liquor laws as they affect racecourses. In section 75, remembering that manning levels and staff relations within the Racing Board were a serious handicap to the financial wellbeing and future of the industry, it may be unwise to transfer this problem to the new authority. Perhaps the Minister would consider that matter. The offices of the new Authority will be those of the old Racing Board. Criticisms that the Authority is in reality Board II without reform and greatly enhanced powers seem to be reasonable.

The formula suggested in the Schedule as the way in which the board will be formed is highly suspect. For example, the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association has two nominations to the Seanad, yet it cannot select its own representatives. It has to put up a panel of those candidates, one of whom will be chosen by the Minister. The formula has been referred to in the Racing Post as nationalisation in everything but name. While some utilities may benefit from nationalisation, racing is not one of them. The greyhound industry has certainly not prospered under Government control.

I wish to point out two serious omissions from the Bill. If it is accepted that the horseracing industry can survive only if linked to off-track betting, it is remarkable that there is no mention of off-track betting in the Bill. Virtually all Irish racecourses face serious financial problems and will not survive on turnstile receipts, the level of which is set by the Racing Board. The Bill does not suggest how racecourses will be rewarded to enable them to prosper — for example, with a share of betting turnover on-track or inter-track returns. I hope the Minister will address the concerns I raised, which are shared by people involved in the industry. It would reflect well on the Minister and would be magnanimous of him if he were to bring forward amendments to meet the concerns of Deputies on all sides of the House.

I welcome this Bill. A bone of contention among all those involved in this industry is that it has not been given sufficient attention down the years. The Bill presents an opportunity, which we will not get for a considerable time again, in view of the amount of legislation to be put through the House, to undertake a root and branch examination of the industry which is in need of an overhaul. Like most sporting events, the racing industry has suffered from the recession. People who do not have much disposable income will not frequently attend the racetrack. However, if we are to believe economic advisers who say that the economy is improving, we should avail of this opportunity to tackle the many problems that have existed for years in the industry. It has had to face major competition from other sporting events and leisure activities that have come on-stream in recent years, and use high-powered advertising. Perhaps the Racing Board did not take on board the level of competition which it encountered.

Even during the recessional period many changes have been made, some of which have been for the better, particularly Sunday racing. A greater number of families who, for one reason or another, could not attend race meetings on weekdays are attracted to meetings on Sundays. It has resulted in an increased interest in racing and also an increase in betting. However, there are areas of the industry that have not been improved. For example, Baldoyle racecourse in our capital city has been closed for many years and is overgrown. That racecourse was attended by and large by the Dublin racing fraternity. The greatest tragedy was the closure of the Phoenix Park racecourse. A number of questions must be asked about that racecourse and why it was closed. Perhaps the policy adopted by the owners of the racecourse did not meet with the requirement of those who attend race meetings here.

We must attract and facilitate the top class horses but I am not sure that we have sufficient numbers of them to justify having two major tracks. We have the Curragh, which is known worldwide. It is sad that the Phoenix Park racecourse closed. The main reason for that was the type of racing being provided there. It did not hold the big handicap races, the maidens and various other types of races which attract the public. I realise the facilities were not available there for mixing national hunt racing with other types of racing but some of the other smaller tracks have been successful because there was a general mix of national hunt and flat racing.

There have been many success stories with the festival meetings, for example, Fairyhouse at Easter and Punchestown which is being attended by large crowds this year and will continue to draw the crowds because progressive people are involved there. There are festival meetings in Tralee, Killarney, Galway, Listowel, Leopardstown as well as meetings at Christmas. The Derby meeting at the Curragh is a major attraction also. There are many problems, however, with the meetings held between these major events.

Racecourses have to be maintained to some extent 52 weeks of the year and this must be addressed. I do not want to see more racecourses close because that would damage the industry.

We must give as much assistance as possible to the people who provide the horses for meetings. According to the figures we have been given, approximately 6,500 to 7,000 horses are registered each year for racing, approximately 4,700 appear on our racecourses and of those only 1,200 win races. If that is the case, many owners have had little return for their major investments. It is well known that the average training fee is approximately £150 to £200 per week and that does not include veterinary fees, travelling fees, entry fees or the many other fees that arise.

The small owner who may be a breeder also may keep a foal for national hunt racing only to find after four years that the animal will not even appear on a racetrack. The same can happen in the case of someone paying a large sum of money for a yearling and incurring all the various expenses involved in bringing it to the stage at which it could race.

The increase in the number of people syndicating horses is welcome. It is obviously an economic necessity; the costs are shared, but it provides the same amount of enjoyment although the return is not as great. I appreciate the difficulties involved and the Minister's success in providing additional funding this year. It must be ongoing and spent properly. I am sure funding was required in many other sporting areas. However, the Government's decision to provide this funding will reap rewards in the coming years.

Most betting takes place in SP offices from which approximately £31 million is collected in revenue each year. Unfortunately, all of that money does not come from betting on Irish races; the major proportion of it comes from betting on English races. If racing is not encouraged to develop there will be no need for SP offices. Indeed, many have closed in the past few years. As against that there has been major investment in some others where British bookmaker chains bought out a number of the family owned businesses here.

On-course betting in Northern Ireland is tax free. A 5 per cent tax is imposed here but that does not deter the punter. If the punter gets good value for money and is happy with the facilities to enjoy good racing, he or she will not object to paying the tax but off-course betting has a role to play, and I hope that some mechanism can be found to ensure that revenue from that source contributes to the funding of racecourses.

Tote betting here leaves much to be desired. I am not happy that sufficient effort is being put into ensuring that there is a shortening of the queues at races. There is nothing more off-putting than to see people queuing to bet on the tote. The smaller punter and families prefer to bet on the tote but if they have to queue for 20 minutes or more between races, they will be put off placing bets. Major technological changes have taken place in tote betting but we have a long way to go. We should examine the British system and other systems which appear to be much better than ours.

The proposal that SP facilities will be available on the tracks is welcome. It will not generate much revenue but it will provide an extra facility for the punters who want to avail of it. It may encourage punters to leave the betting offices and go to race meetings where they would enjoy mixing with the many people who attend these events, particularly the smaller meetings, at which there is a tremendous atmosphere which is what racing is all about. For instance, at Bellewstown each year — not 100 miles from where I live — the facilities are not the best but there is great atmosphere and the turnover is huge. Some of the major tracks would be delighted to attract such attendances. In Kilbeggan which is another major success story, a number of meetings are held each year.

Much has been said about employment in the industry. There are excellent stud-farms in my area giving major employment. Some of these have been taken over by the Arabs who invested heavily in them, and continue to develop them. There are also some poorly paid employees because in many cases the investment was not made when times were good and stud owners are not able to cope now. Unfortunately in some training establishments conditions are not good for the people who work there. Many problems encountered by trainers relate to owners not being in a position to pay training fees. They foot the loss and that filters down to the individual who works in the stable.

I have no problem with the Authority because the only relevant criterion in selecting people for membership, irrespective of what group has a right to nominate them, should be that they have a genuine interest in the industry and wish to improve it. I do not accept the arguments regarding political favours and selecting old cronies.

If the industry does not survive, thousands of people will lose their jobs and Ireland will not be as well known in racing circles as it is today. I hope the racing Authority will ensure that facilities are improved. Racecourses must not be neglected. It would be damaging if we cut corners in that area and on Committee Stage we will tease out the Minister's thinking on funding. There is no point in throwing money at the industry unless it is properly spent. The Authority will have a responsibility to ensure that whatever money is provided must be spent properly in the long term interest of racing.

This Bill is close to my heart and I welcome it. I understand the Act has not been amended since 1931. I congratulate the Minister on his interest in the industry. No less an authority than John Comyn continually pays him compliments. That must be good.

Not necessarily. What about his tips on bridge?

I do not know about that but like all racing tipsters his tips on racing need to be taken with caution. He is very interested in racing and writes a courageous column in the Irish Independent and the Evening Herald.

The industry has been neglected over the years. Governments took a laissez faire attitude towards it and allowed it run on its own rails. That it has done so is a tribute to the standard of Irish racing. We lead the world in horse breeding. The climate, unholy as it is to most of us, lends itself particularly to the horse breeding industry.

I will not mention the standard of Irish jockeys because their contribution, particularly to English racing, is extraordinary. Pat Eddery is surely the greatest jockey in the world and Mick Kinane is only a short head behind him, if that. The extraordinary contribution of Irish national hunt jockeys to English racing is exemplified by the thrilling spectacle everybody is watching this year between Richard Dunwoody and Adrian Maguire.

Racing is a complex industry. I read in the Irish Independent today that 16,000 people attended Punchestown Races yesterday. Most of them were only there for the beer — socialites who like to go out for a day's racing and put 50p or £1 on the tote. I wish I was like them but unfortunately I suffer the affliction of being a gambler. Most big gamblers do not go to Irish races as a rule. I am one of them. In Ireland most of the gambling is on English races in bookmakers' offices. There are many reasons for that, one common one is that the punter does not trust Irish racing. A few years ago I contrasted it with the hit musical “Fiddler on the Roof” and suggested an apt name for it would be “Fiddler on the Hoof”. Some people in the industry resented that but it struck a chord with the punters who do not know what is happening in the industry.

There is a belief that Irish racing is not run as cleanly as English racing or, to put it in more acceptable terms, they do not always run "on their merits". That is an opinion I hold over 40 years' punting and why my hair is white. I am glad to see the Minister's is not. It is good to see a Minister take a real interest in horse racing.

There is a school of thought which believes that the Turf Club should be abolished and that there should be one racing Authority. I do not subscribe to that view. There is a role for the Turf Club but there is need for a horse racing Authority comprised of people within the industry who earn their living from it. The bloodstock side of the industry contributes significantly to our export earnings. If the horseracing industry is to develop increased annual funding will have to be allocated to the racing Authority. Some rural racecourses are finding it extremely difficult to continue in operation and if additional funding is not provided many of them will be forced to close over the next few years.

Deputy Brian Fitzgerald referred to the success of the Galway and Bellewstown racecourses. It is wrong to compare these courses with the Curragh and Leopardstown courses. The Bellewstown course runs a three-day parochial event and it would not be as successful if it held a meeting once a month — like Galway, one could not race horses at this course during the winter. Many of the patrons who make the Galway meeting so successful and colourful are holidaymakers, socialites who go there to be seen and people who want to be part of the fun. Further consideration needs to be given to venues where racing can be held all-year round.

Like Deputy Fizgerald, I regret the closure of the Baldoyle racecourse, where I lost a good few "bucks", and the Phoenix Park racecourse. These tracks were forced to close for many reasons, one of which was a lack of interest in them by the Government. By any standards, these tracks, located in the metropolis, should have been successful. The closure of the Baldoyle course over 20 years ago was a tragedy, but the biggest tragedy of all was the closure of the Phoenix Park course in which millions of pounds had been invested by the sponsors in providing a European-style track. The type of racing held at this course did not attract the required hordes of racegoers.

The Government should consider acquiring the Phoenix Park racecourse, the turf of which is on a par with that of other European race tracks. I was recently told by a person who was connected with racing at the course that the track could be ready for racing within two months. The facilities at the course are magnificent, but a difficulty arose with photofinishes and the angle at which horses were raced, which apparently was not attractive to the public. The other facilities in the course could be made available for sports such as soccer, Gaelic football and tennis. I believe sporting organisations in Dublin would be only too willing to avail of these facilities. The Government should make money available for the holding of a different type of race meeting at the Phoenix Park. This track, which is located virtually in the centre of Dublin, could be made financially viable if proper consideration was given to its development.

I am not pointing a finger at him — all Governments are guilty of making political appointments — but I hope the Minister will not politicise the appointment of the members of the Authority. He should adopt an even-handed approach to the appointment of the 13 members of the Authority, which should include a representative of the turf supporters' club. Although I have never met him, Kevin Smith is reputed to have made a meaningful contribution to the horseracing industry. The ordinary racing supporter, the punter, must be represented on the Authority together with representatives of trainers, the bloodstock industry and bookies.

This brings me to the unholy subject of bookies, with whom I have had a love-hate relationship all my life. I spent too much of my time in bookmakers' establishments, which one could call houses of sin. Bookmakers do not make an adequate contribution to the horseracing industry. As Deputy Fitzgerald said, it takes between £150 to £200 per week to keep a horse. I had a horse for a short period until the bank manager told me I would have to get rid of it. To an extent, bookies can be regarded as parasites. People are entitled to operate as bookmakers once they get a licence, which costs a few hundred pounds. They may not know whether a horse is going backwards or sidewards but they know how to make a living from the punters. The 10 per cent betting tax brings in approximately £35 million per year. How much of that money is redirected to the horseracing industry? Deputy Fitzgerald referred to horseracing as a sport. I agree with him, but it is essentially an industry which needs re-investment if it is to survive and modernise.

The case for Sunday racing is undeniable — statistics show that Sunday meetings attract the largest number of racegoers. One of the obstacles to the holding of meetings on a Sunday is the intransigent attitude adopted by the people who operate the turnstiles, bookies and clerks, who almost had a veto on whether racing should be held on a Sunday. This veto should be removed from them so that Sunday racing can be held at all tracks which apply for this facility.

Some years ago a race meeting was held in Dundalk on 12 July, a particularly significant day in the North. Due to the number of people who escaped, so to speak, from the North to Dundalk on that day there was a huge attendance at the meeting, which helped that track which was struggling at the time. Because of the attitude of the people in authority who decide whether racing should be held on a Sunday, this meeting was not held in subsequent years. Every track should be able to hold racing on at least one Sunday during the year. The holding of racing on a Sunday would also attract an increased number of English punters.

There are constant flights from London to Paris for racing at Longchamps and other French tracks on Sundays. It is accepted that many English punters attend Sunday race meetings in Ireland which, if developed, would be a source of revenue for our racing industry and from which our economy overall would benefit. The abolition of on-course betting tax would be a huge attraction. For example, there is no betting tax imposed on race meetings held at Downpatrick or the Maze, Down Royal, in the North which has helped those tracks enormously in recent times, they had been almost extinct some years ago as they did not receive any assistance from the British Government. I attended a race meeting at the Maze on Boxing Day last year when one literally could not move with the numbers of people attending. There are great benefits to be derived from abolishing on-course betting tax at Irish race meetings which would attract more visitors from the United Kingdom to place bets with bookmakers here from which the industry generally would benefit. We must remember that not only will such people gamble but will spend money in those areas, perhaps many taking a stake in the Irish racing industry, through the syndication or purchase of horses for training here.

On behalf of punters I urge that year-round evening race meetings be facilitated which, both here and in England, proved very successful in summer months. Legislation was introduced in the House of Commons to allow English bookmakers to remain open until the very last race has been run, sometimes as late as 9 o'clock in the evening, whereas here we have denied punters and bookmakers that facility. We have encouraged gambling without having to pay tax. I sinned in that respect before with an illustrious colleague of the Minister opposite, but we confessed our sins to the nation. I do not know whether we were forgiven but certainly we were understood by many people. The fact of life is that the Revenue Commissioners lose thousands of pounds by not allowing bookmakers to open for evening race meetings whereas, in every public house nationwide, there is a bar stool bookie who takes illegal bets, if the publican is not doing so. Two meetings per evening are now broadcast on Sky Television, when punters go into public houses and place bets with anybody who will take them. It is incredible that that fact has not dawned on the Department. One does not need to be an intellectual to realise that the State is losing a lot of money. While that might not fall within the remit of the Minister's Department but of the Minister for Finance, I ask the Minister, jointly with his colleague, to provide that facility and allow the State to reap more revenue from the activity.

I have not had time to read the provisions of the Bill in detail. I welcome the Minister's interest in Irish racing. In addition to the many receptions to which the Minister will be invited by the racing authorities I ask him to remember the man in the street. Will the Minister introduce legislation to ensure equal betting rules in all betting offices because at present a bookmaker can draw up his own rules, always appearing in very small print? There is a betting column in the Evening Herald, widely read, demonstrating the number of people with grievances about bookmakers who sometimes like to welch. It is illogical that one betting office in a street will have its set of rules whereas another, ten yards further up the same street, will have others. Betting regulations must be harmonised. The people who should undertake that task are the new Horse Racing Authority, the Minister's Department, or both, but certainly not individual bookmakers.

I thank the Minister for what appears to be his genuine interest in racing, in constrast with that of his predecessors, giving us a ray of hope that our horse racing industry will receive increased Government aid. We must always remember that we breed race horses better than any other country worldwide.

I am glad to be afforded an opportunity to discuss the horse racing industry since we seldom get that chance here. Is it not strange that, with all the Dáil committees established in recent years, none has been established on agriculture, our major industry. While there appears to be a Dáil committee for many issues, some ludicrous, there is none on agriculture. Such a committee would afford everybody engaged in the agricultural sphere an opportunity of voicing their dissatisfaction, wishes or ideas. The main farming organisations were never found wanting in that respect but people engaged in horse racing activities have no forum within which to express their views. No doubt the Minister will appreciate the point I make. The establishment of such a committee on agriculture would be not only educational but enlightening for us all.

Since Deputy McGahon made his famous contribution three or four years ago we have not had any opportunity of discussing horse racing in this House. While I may criticise some of the provisions of this Bill I hope to be constructive and give the House the benefit of my experience as a former Minister for Agriculture in charge of the racing industry. While the format of the new Horse Racing Authority to replace the Racing Board and, to a certain extent, the Turf Club may appear to be a good idea, I can tell the Minister it will not work as he may anticipate. During my term of office I established a board for the half-breed industry, Bord na gCapall, 11 or 12 years ago, and a number of members were nominated by various nominating bodies. The Minister intends to do the same in the case of half the new Horseracing Authority, have nominating bodies nominate a member from within their ranks. I found that system of nomination to be disastrous and ended up with the worst of some 12 or 14 different boards charged with different aspects of agriculture under my control. I advise the Minister not to allow nominating bodies to nominate their representatives, when the worst type of political activities will be generated within those boards to ensure that certain people are nominated. It is like selecting a team when a father, son or brother serve on the selection committee and two or three other sons seek places, when that type of tribalism occurs it will not lead to a satisfactory result at the end of the day.

The Minister is the person in control and he should select the board. If those chosen are bad the Minister should take the rap and if they are good accept the credit. Having had one bad experience I will never again tolerate anybody advocating a nominating body putting forward the name of a member of a board. That is still the position in regard to CBF and some other bodies under the Minister's control. It is a disastrous recipe, you get the worst of all worlds and will not get the best people.

If the onus is put on the Minister he will make sure to select the best people. I have every confidence in the Minister not selecting people on a party political basis but rather on their ability. The 14 best most representative people, should be on that board, not representatives of a nominating body. The Minister may say it is too late to change the provision in the Bill but I would not agree. He may not wish to amend it immediately but it should be done.

I wish to comment on a practice which I find revolting — it does not refer to anybody here — that is the racist manner in which BBC and ITV commentators refer to animals with an Irish name running in England. The way they deal with the names of such horses is extraordinarily derogatory and deliberately degrading. In the languages department within the BBC all presenters, newscasters and interviewers who have a problem with a language pronunciation are coached on the pronunciation phonetically. If it is Japanese, Czechoslovakian, Arabic or Chinese and particularly French, they will have it off to a T but if it is Irish we get the greatest bastardisation of all time — that is the only word I can use which suitably describes what they do. They make no attempt to get the name right. It is a deliberate slur on the Irish. This is a matter that should have been taken up by the Government, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht.

I was at Linfield Park many years ago where a horse with the melodic name "An Buachallán Buidhe" was running. He was described by the course commentator — and he still would be described by the BBC and the ITV today — as the "Buckalawn Buddy." God help anybody who gives an attractive Irish name to a horse that is sold in England as that horse will be maligned — it is not the horse that will be maligned but the Irish race. It is deliberate insult and the commentators seem to go out of their way to do so. We have all noticed this practice, nobody has ever said anything about it, but let us hope something will happen as a result of my raising it today. It is rather like the bastardisation of Irish placenames and townlands. It is only when they are translated into Irish that we realise what has happened. We say it was awful of the English to do this 200 or 300 years ago but it is happening in April 1994 and nobody seems to do anything about it. It is a deliberate insult to the Irish people.

I will not shed any tears on the demise or the downgrading of the Turf Club. It was a most undemocratic system. There were some very good people in the Turf Club but, due to the absence of democracy, there were serious suspicions about the calibre of some members and the nature of the decisions. Their decision-making was above board but it has got to be seen to be democratic. The selection of members over the years had much to do with their names or their background, known generally as West Britons or army types. One would not get a position of the Turf Club with a name such as Welsh — nowadays called Walsh — or Browne, you would need to have a pedigree — as is said in racing — going back over centuries.

As had the dam and sires also.

We will have democratisation of the racing industry with the establishment of the new authority and, to a certain degree, nationalisation which could be difficult and create more problems than it will solve. We may be wishing we had never got rid of the west Brits or the people with handles to their names, the Brigadier Colonels or Brigadier Generals or whatever as they had a certain amount of etiquette. We are going from one sphere to another.

Nationalisation has ruined the racing industry in France. We ought to bear in mind the parallel here. In my younger years the French won the Derby virtually every second year. I cannot recall when a French horse last won it; it is a once in 20 years phenomenon. It is more commonplace for the French to win Gold Cup in Cheltenham than to win the Derby, as they did this year.

The nationalisation of the racing industry has been disastrous in France and we should be careful not to fall into the same trap. We have a particular niche in the racing world. The Irish national hunt scene is without parallel. Nowhere are there people who are as good with animals as the Irish. We make a mess of many things but with horses and greyhounds we are supreme. We should never forget that and the Bill attempts to build on that expertise. The Irish are the best when it comes to breeding, breaking in, training or riding horses, especially national hunt horses. The Chinese are a little better than us at punting. The performance of our national hunt trainers and jockeys at home and abroad has been the best. Of the top 12 national hunt jockeys in Britain this year, eight are Irish. When we compare our population of five million for the island with 60 million in Britain we can see the disproportionate excellence of the Irish when it comes to performance with national hunt animals. There are good in flat racing also.

We must study the structure of the industry from the point-to-point racing, although that has not been mentioned today. As the Minister is from Cork where point-to-point racing originated and where it still is the most vibrant part of Irish racing I am surprised it was not mentioned. Every Sunday from January until the end of May there is a point to point meeting in some part of County Cork.

And a flapper meeting.

There can be up to 200 horses competing in the 13 races on the same day in Cork. That is the backbone of the racing industry. I am not trying to dismiss other counties. County Waterford produces some of the best national hunt trainers and we had three winners in Cheltenham last year and three Irish winners this year. Counties such as Kilkenny, Carlow, Meath and Kildare are the home of flat racing. In Kerry they might not have even have one horse trainer but they have three enormously successful racecourses. Point-to-point is the basis of the national hunt industry and where the bulk of people are employed.

There are 26 race tracks in the country and I appeal to the Minister not to allow the Horseracing Authority or anybody else to close them down as part of a rationalisation programme. Some fine courses such as Mullingar and Baldoyle, to mention just two, were closed. That is enough. The race courses in Mallow and Tramore were nearly closed down. This should not be allowed to happen as they are the foundation of the industry. People who start out in a small way at a point-to-point use the courses as a stepping stone to Leopardstown, Punchestown and Cheltenham. One cannot get rid of the middle tier as one progresses in sequence through the system.

Let us not forget that we are among the best in this industry and any money spent is well spent. According to the Bill the Minister will invest £7, but we are taking £35 million in levies from the bookies annually. We are not doing justice to the industry. When my party was in Government we introduced a number of measures that revitalised it. The reduction of betting tax in betting offices from 20 per cent to 10 per cent created enormous growth in legalised betting and generated a tremendous amount for the coffers. That should not be forgotten and the Government should be prepared to plough more of that money into the racing industry.

We made significant increases in the grants available to national hunt fixtures and the prize money has never been so good. The average prize money for first place was in the region of £1,000-£1,500, but now the winner is guaranteed at least £3,500. This tremendous stimulus which resulted in economic boom in betting offices and racecourses has meant that we are able to retain some of the best horses at home as well as continuing to export to Britain. The prize money is good enough to allow owners to keep their horses. The prize money at Punchestown is not as good but compares favourably with that in Cheltenham. The initiatives taken eight or ten years ago have paid off.

The Minister's chief adviser, Mr. Gerry Dromey, was born beside the local point to point course in Dungarvan — he will be delighted to be told that.

He has graduated since then.

I was surprised that Deputy McGahon did not give the Minister a tip. Deputy Seán Barrett is sponsoring a race in Punchestown today. Steel Dawn, a Dungarvan horse, will be ridden by Adrian Maguire at Punchestown and at 10 to 1 he is a good bet.

If we establish a committee to deal with agricultural affairs we could discuss matters relating to racing. We are overlooking a major industry by having a debate only once every for four to five years. Leopardstown is the flagship of Irish racing. It has wonderful facilities and we should strive to attain that standard at all our racecourses. Fairyhouse has been upgraded and is a wonderful course, as is Punchestown. The facilities at some race courses are only diabolical, and in particular, the toilet facilities are pathetic. The GAA, which has its own problems with such facilities, would be ashamed of them. A significant amount of money should be invested in toilet facilities. Substantial grants should be made available to all racecourses, even those privately owned, for toilet and catering facilities.

I have probably omitted a number of important points but my time is up. I hope we are not too late to bet on the Dungarvan horse running in the 3.45 race in Punchestown today.

I will take Deputy Deasy's advice and have a little flutter on the Dungarvan horse. Tropical Lake is a good horse also. I was in Puchestown yesterday and enjoyed an excellent day's race and entertainment. There were records crowds. Members have made the point that customers want a good national hunt meeting and when they get it they turn up. We need to be mindful of what the customer wants. Punchestown has got the formula right and provides excellent racing together with excellent facilities and this is reflected in the profile of those attending. The punters as well as families enjoy themselves. At a great many racing tracks it is only the hard core supporters who turn up.

One of the best races yesterday was won by Merry Gale who came through the point to point system.

A Waterford horse.

Bred in Wexford by Mr. Paddy Day.

I thank all the Deputies who contributed constructively to this debate. Racing is more than a sport, it is an industry. We are successful at it and it deserves the support we can give it. There are very many areas of economic activity that are supported by the taxpayer but this is certainly one that is well worth the investment, not alone in terms of jobs but also for Ireland's prestige internationally.

Last year the Melbourne Cup was won by Vintage Crop, trained by Dermot Weld, who has had other successes in the United States and Japan. We have trainers, breeders and owners who are outstanding.

Reference has been made to our jockeys. I disagree with Deputy McGahon that Michael Kinane is not as good as Pat Eddery; he is every bit as good and is an outstanding jockey.

Could we continue this debate somewhere else?

In William Hill's.

Apart from its contribution to the economy, given the prestige and the fact that we have acquitted ourselves well, it is worth investing in the industry. I am pleased that there is agreement on how we should put the industry on a sound footing. This matter has been the subject of much debate and discussion. I am also pleased that the people who chaired the discussion groups were complimented: Dr. Paddy Moriarity; the secretary of the Department, Michael Dowling and Denis Brosnan. These people are not involved in the industry — this allowed them to be objective — and gave of their time on a voluntary basis. They deserve our appreciation. A significant number of those involved in the industry and on the periphery believe that the industry has tremendous potential. I accept that is the case.

Some of the criticism was justified. We cannot get everything right but I am prepared to make amendments, adjustments or modifications. At this hour of my life my one passion is horse racing——

The only passion?

I would like to see it prosper as a world class industry. While our horses have won many major international races we would like to be at the top of the league. I have referred to a number of the committees and discussion groups which were set up.

Would the Minister be in favour of establishing an agricultural committee?

Agricultural matters are dealt with by the Select Committee on Enterprise and Economic Strategy but I would have no objection to the establishment of a committee on agriculture given its impact on the economy.

Reference has been made to the report produced by the committee chaired by Lord Killanin. If I recall correctly, this report was debated in the Seanad. Given the impact this industry has on the economy several years should not go by without discussing it although I accept that Members have an opportunity to debate these points in the debate on the Estimates each year.

The Turf Club was to the fore in initiating the study carried out by the committee chaired by Dr. Paddy Moriarity and deserves credit for this. This was followed by a further study undertaken by the committee chaired by Michael Dowling, secretary of the Department. Deputy Doyle asked what happened to the draft document produced by that committee which was comprised of owners, representatives of the Turf Club, racecourses and the bookies. Séamus Mulvanney was a member. This document was referred to the parliamentary draftsman's office to prepare the legal text which upset a number of people. I pointed out to the Turf Club and others who had expressed concern that I wanted to get the matter right and would have no difficulty in agreeing to amendments to allay their concerns. Many of the insertions were necessary to ensure the Bill conformed with legal precedent in establishing bodies such as this Authority.

Was that the only input?

They did not alter the proposals. If Members table some worthwhile amendments on Committee Stage I will be pleased to accept them. Reference has been made to the 1986 Killanin report on the industry. It has been suggested there is a lack of commitment to provide funding. It is legitimate to ask that while X amount of money will be provided this year what will happen next year? One of the most serious problems is that insufficient funding is available to the industry. Tremendous work is being done by various racecourse authorities, including Punchestown, Fairyhouse and Galway. Over £250,000 is on offer in prize money at Punchestown. Yesterday the prize fund for the novice chase was over £60,000. Tremendous credit is due to those who seek sponsorship to increase prize money. Because of this we are able to keep good horses at home. Those who take high risks by investing in racehorses need good prize money.

As Deputy Deasy mentioned, the tax on off-course betting was reduced from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. This was a positive development and has an impact. It was offered as an incentive to those who avail of no tax betting. The allocation of £3 million has also been of help. This year almost £7 million will be provided.

A sum of a few hundred thousand pounds was made available to establish Irish Thoroughbred Marketing. This has paid a great dividend. This is a small, tightly knit operation led by Matt Mitchell and some clerical staff who have been instrumental in bringing new buyers to Goffs and other centres. They have been superb.

It would not be in the best interests of the industry to link the question of funding with the question of tax on off-course betting. That is a matter for the Minister for Finance in the context of the budget. The point was made by at least two Members who have an interest in the bookmaking business that a substantial amount is taken in bets on racing outside Ireland. Deputy McGahon mentioned that there is a perception that horses running in other countries make a greater effort. Having just shaken out one's pockets to buy a horse, it is not a good idea to use the racecourse as a training ground. Betting on greyhound racing is popular. So is betting on golf and the lotto. People bet if there is some excitement and a reasonable chance of a return. It is not true that there is a depression in betting; people are betting on other activities and, if they get a fair crack of the whip, they will return to betting on horses. Some people reckon that the percentage bet on Irish horse racing could be as low as 10 per cent.

Grants to the industry this year are at least equal to the total tax revenue from off-course betting on Irish racing. However, if such grants are linked to betting, and there is a decline in off-course betting in the next few years, they will also be reduced accordingly. To what extent can the new authority influence off-course betting especially when so much of it takes place on events outside Ireland and on other sports over which it has no control? Should the new authority's energies be expended on examining ways of improving revenue from activities which are not under its control?

One might assume from the debate that if a fixed percentage of off-course betting tax revenue were allocated to the industry, it would be fixed for all time and could not be changed by a future Government. However, a future Government could include in the Finance Act a provision reducing the allocation or eliminating it altogether. If people bet on other activities like greyhound racing——

Or elections.

——organisations governing those other activities could look for their slice of the proceeds and would be entitled to do so. What is required is a commitment to provide a reasonable level of funding over an extended period. That would provide security for the industry to plan future development on a strategic basis. I am happy to be judged on my record in that area and I will maintain this level of funding for racing into the future.

The Killanin report recommended a broadening of the remit of the racing board and the setting up of a single authority for the thoroughbred industry. Killanin was concerned about the structure, organisation and financing of the industry. This Bill addresses those concerns and puts in place a strong framework which, coupled with the necessary financial commitment, should allow the industry to expand.

The question of the manner of making appointments to the authority was raised by a number of Deputies. Deputy Deasy said that the worst possible way of appointing an authority or a board was to select members from a panel of nominees of nominating bodies because the politics of the organisations concerned would be brought into play in making selections. He said the relevant Minister should make the appointments and not depend on nominating bodies. The opposite point of view was also put. Some Deputies felt the Minister was too involved in making appointments and should stay out of that area.

The system we have devised is a compromise between those two views. Three appointments will be made directly on the nominations of the stewards of the governing body. They have already sent in their nominations. I want the majority of the remainder to be representative of the industry. However, in making the appointments, one must and will have regard to a number of things, including the need for both a gender and a geographical balance. It would be unwise if most of the membership of the authority were from, say, County Kildare or County Tipperary because there are tracks in Galway, Dundalk, Tralee and other places. Then there must be a general balance between the interests involved. If the authority were made up mainly of people who represent flat racing it would be unfair to the national hunt. The intention is to give reasonable representation to all involved.

There are some interest groups that are not specifically catered for. Accordingly, some authority members will have a wide brief. That is the reason for the system of nominating panels that I can choose from. I am asking the representative bodies to provide at least three names — one group has voluntarily provided more nominees than required. I can reasonably assume that in putting forward a panel each organisation will select people in which it has confidence. The Bill gives me no discretion to go outside those panels. Apart from the panels, one member of the authority must be representative of the industry in northern Ireland. In practice that person will be selected by the industry there. The three remaining members will be appointed at the Minster's discretion. This could hardly be described as excessive interference in the selection process. To give the Minister some flexibility in achieving the requisite balance it was decided that the number of members should be increased from 13 to 14, giving the Minister discretion over three appointments.

I accept that the new authority should be consumer-driven. In the initial stages of preparation of this Bill I stated publicly that it was my wish that consumers should be represented on this authority. It would be foolhardy for any industry to make a product without taking account of consumers about it.

Will the Racing Club of Ireland have a seat on the authority?

The Racing Club of Ireland is well known to me. It is my intention that the racing public who go through the turnstiles will be represented on the authority. I will make every effort to ensure that this industry is as market-driven as possible.

A definite "maybe".

In the last years the taxpayers have put £3 million into the industry. However, the industry has no more money at its disposal because the income generated by the industry itself has gone down proportionately with the amount of betting taking place. The tote should be more profitable. Leopardstown racecourse has provided ancillary facilities. The golf course there generates a substantial amount of money as does the discotheque. I have not seen the accounts, but there is probably more money generated from the ancillary activities than from the race meetings, particularly until recently when the full amount paid at the turnstiles did not go to the course. More racecourses should do that sort of thing.

Deputy McGahon mentioned the Phoenix Park. I frequently attended evening race meetings at the course. The difficulty in relation to the finishing point and the horses almost running into the stands could have been overcome. The finishing points at racecourses throughout the world are unsatisfactory. I attended point to point meetings at which the finishing point was several fields away and yet people attend them. Nowadays in Cheltenham or at meetings such as the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in Paris races can be watched from a big screen in front of the stands. It is regrettable that the Phoenix Park racecourse, which was central, could not have been run profitably.

Many questions were raised about the position of the Turf Club and the National Hunt Steeplechase Committee under the new regime. Deputy Doyle, in particular, referred to the collective wisdom, experience and love of racing by those bodies in the past two centuries and I concur with her sentiments. The expertise of those bodies is outstanding, they have done a tremendous job in the past two centuries. Deputy O'Malley said they should receive taxpayers' money and be left alone. One cannot give a private club £7 million per annum of taxpayers' money and ignore it. It must be accountable to somebody. The Turf Club accepts that it has kept Irish racing to the forefront internationally for more than two centuries, but that the industry should be on a firmer footing. That body initiated the studies undertaken and supports the broad consensus of this Bill. I met members of the Turf Club a few weeks ago to discuss its concerns and, where possible, I tabled amendments to meet them. There must be accountability in respect of taxpayers' money. Providing for the functions of the governing bodies in the legislation will enhance their position. They will continue to do what they have done so well for the past two centuries. Deputies should examine section 39 in detail, it states that the racing regulatory body will be responsible for regulating horseracing, making and enforcing the rules of racing and providing for the integrity of services. The legislation also states that there will be adequate funding for the provision of those services. Despite the difficulties people may have had with members of the Turf Club, nobody doubts its integrity and it deserves our appreciation.

Deputies Doyle and O'Malley asked who will license trainers and jockeys. That function is provided for in the rules of racing and under article 39 (b) will remain under the remit of the governing bodies. Deputy O'Malley's remarks about nationalisation and his reference to taking away the powers of a private club do not reflect the reality of the Bill. The powers of the private body concerned will be given statutory backing and the status of the Turf Club will not be otherwise affected. Under section 42 the Authority will guarantee the cost associated with the provision of the services of the Turf Club. I held discussions yesterday with the incoming chief steward of the Turf Club, Michael Osborne, who has an international reputation. I look forward to working closely with him and as far as possible I took into account his concerns when preparing this legislation.

Deputy O'Malley stated that the Minister's involvement is mentioned in almost every section of the Bill, but that is incorrect. The Minister's involvement is written into the Bill only where it has been shown to be necessary from experience elsewhere in the State sector. I refer in particular to the conferring of additional functions, control of public sector pay and borrowing, establishment of subsidies and appointments to and removals from the Authority. Those provisions do not confer involvement in the day to day operations of the Authority which will be given a free hand in that regard. I do not intend interfering with the day to day operations of the new Authority because its members will be the practitioners and will know how to do the job.

Deputy O'Malley correctly referred to the operation of the tote on the high street. That is a way of bringing racing to the people and encouraging new punters to take part in this fine sport.

What about Sunday racing?

We are facilitating Sunday racing by amending the licensing laws so that people can have a hot toddy between races, especially in the winter time. We are ahead, particularly in respect of the UK, in relation to Sunday racing.

We are behind France.

That may be so, but the racing industry in France is not going through a good patch.

We see what happened when it was nationalised.

Many parts of the Bill contain enabling provisions. In other words, the new Authority in its wisdom will be able to avail of enabling provisions to carry out its work in the best interest of the industry and will play a major role in its future. The enabling provisions provide for the development of the tote and a menu of betting opportunities. Nowadays most betting shops are comfortable, punters want to do their punting in pleasant surroundings. Deputy Deasy mentioned the unpleasant surroundings of the facilities at many of our racecourses. People can now go to their local bookmakers and, in comfortable surroundings, bet on races beamed in from all over the globe. People can attend a meeting in, say, Limerick or Mallow and bet on a race in Leopardstown or the Curragh.

What is the position in regard to Mallow, has it been purchased? This is the third time it has been bought, but we still do not know the position.

Will the Government buy the Phoenix Park and reinstate racing there?

The position in respect of Mallow is close to my heart. Cork is to the forefront in many sporting activities——

Except racing.

——not least horse racing and point-to-point races. It is outrageous that the horse loving public in Cork have not got an up-to-date course and facilities. I requested the Racing Board to examine the position of Mallow and it arranged to acquire the racecourse, but the fine details have yet to be worked out. Deputies will be aware that we provided funding in the budget to start work on that racecourse.

The enabling provisions will provide a broader base for funding for the industry. Deputy O'Malley also expressed concern about the possibility of the Authority acting as a bookmaker. That is also an enabling provision and will allow the Authority extend its revenue base to bookmaking if it is feasible. In Britain the tote acts as a bookmaker. Under section 36 the consent of the Ministers for Agriculture, Food and Forestry and Finance will be required and will not be given until detailed research and analysis is carried out by the Authority in that area.

It will be up to the Authority to examine those areas and formulate and implement fair and progressive policies. For that reason it is crucial that a proper balance is achieved in appointments to the Authority and that no region or sector is isolated or over-represented.

I wish to refer to a point made about Northern Ireland. I recently enjoyed an evening's racing at Down Royal and I did not do too badly. Under the provisions of the Bill the Authority will not have jurisdiction in respect of Northern Ireland. However, the Minister's direct appointees on the Authority will be represented by horseracing interests in Northern Ireland. In practice, such an appointee will be selected by the industry there and I will make the appointment. The day I attended the race meeting, six races were held at a cost of £12,500, five races cost £2,000 and one cost £2,500. The people there asked how we could hold a festival in Punchestown at a cost of £268,000 with one race costing £60,000. The industry and the two racecourses there need a shot in the arm and I asked the Authority if it can be helpful in that regard.

The fixtures will effectively be set by the fixtures committee, the composiiton of which is similar to what has obtained until now. Section 19 (4) states that where the fixtures committee makes a recommendation the Authority will be obliged to accept it.

It does not give the rural tracks a fair crack of the whip for the vital days.

I heard that argument before and we will see if a fairer allocation can be made by the people in charge. The chairman of the fixtures committee will be a steward of the Racing Regulatory Body which is a 32 counties body. In practice those arrangements will not give rise to difficulty. I will ask the Authority to have particular regard to the potential of racing and the other section of the industry in the North, there is great interest in the non-thoroughbred industry there. I attend the Balmoral show regularly and I am delighted to meet people whom I also meet here regularly. I refer to people who are not directly involved in the industry but who have made a great impact on it. I was pleased to appoint Dr. Noel Cawley as chairman of an interim horse board to develop the non-thoroughbred end of the industry. He has an international reputation and is devoting one and a half to two and a half days per week to the industry.

The Minister should give Dr. Noel Cawley and others their head and not strangle them at birth. He should take the public sector out of the industry.

They are doing a superb job.

He should loosen the girths.

I was surprised that Deputy O'Malley accused me of introducing the legislation too quickly, normally Ministers are accused of dragging their feet and of using delaying tactics. I assure the House that I was — and am — interested in introducing this legislation as quickly as possible because the industry needs such an Authority and an improvement in the financial base. Its introduction should not be delayed.

There was a reference to Lord Killanin. He produced his report in 1986 and there has been a reasonable gestation period to get on with the job of giving legislative effect to the output of that commission and others that followed. Several studies were carried out and there have been exhaustive consultations — a process which has continued since the publication of the Bill — in respect of the industry. This is a well thought out Bill with a unique input from interests in the industry which will establish a progressive legislative framework for this industry which has a huge potential.

Deputy Power referred to the fixtures committee which is important to the industry. The Dowling Committee felt strongly that the Bill should specify the composition of the committee. It would be regrettable if a dispute arose about the formation of the fixtures committee following the enactment of the Bill and the falling into place of all that is critical to the development of the industry. That is why I accepted the recommendations of the Dowling Committee and included the provision in section 39.

I welcome Deputy Yates's personal support for the Bill. Much of his contribution referred to the day to day operation of the industry, particularly its bookmaking aspects which will be a matter for the Authority

I will propose an amendment to section 45 which should satisfy the concerns about the appeals system raised by Deputies. I will also propose an amendment to section 53 to address Deputy Costello's point regarding the admission of bookmaker's assistants to racecourses. Those matters should continue to be appropriately resolved between the Authority, the racecourses and the unions.

Deputy Gay Mitchell said there is no provision in the Bill which relates to the tote and tote betting. Totalisator betting is governed by the Totalisator Act, 1929, which is the responsibility of the Minister for Finance. However, I agree the development of the tote is one area where we can improve the lot of the horseracing sector and get a better return from it. That is why Part VII of the Bill provides for an amendment of the Totalisator Act to remove the restriction which prohibited, in practical terms, the development of tote betting on the high street. I intend to propose amendments, including one to section 39, which will satisfy the concerns expressed by Deputy Mitchell. Deputy Mitchell stated that the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders' Association had two nominees to the Seanad, but that does not give them a right to be Members of the Seanad. As former Members of the Seanad know, one has to travel around the country to get elected, and securing a nomination is only the start of your problems.

The question of giving a share of the on-course levy to racecourses is a matter for the Authority, representative of all sectors of the industry, to decide on how best to distribute the pool of funds available.

Is it needed? Tracks can survive on seven days racing a year.

On-course betting has decreased from more than £100 million to approximately £70 million. Of the 5 per cent of that amount the racecourses get £3.2 million to £3.5 million per annum which is helpful to the industry. We are proposing that the taxpayers put in double that amount to bring the funding up to £10 million but the industry will have to do a better job in seeking sponsorship. I asked a racecourse manager recently why he did not seek sponsorship from large companies. He said if he did some of the big trainers would wipe out his field with better horses. That happens regularly in point-to-point meetings and the proceeds have to be divided. It is a tricky situation and it is difficult to get the balance right. I am trying to give effect to the broad consensus on the industry. I was pleased that in the Sunday Independent of 24 April 1994, two of the top trainers, John Oxx and Dermot Weld were quoted as strongly supporting what we are trying to do.

They broadly, rather than strongly, supported the Minister, there is a slight difference.

John Oxx said it was a positive thing and would be good for horseracing. Dermot Weld said setting up the Authority was the way forward for horseracing.

The Minister should continue.

I have given a commitment of my goodwill to the industry. If a Member of this House or the Seanad puts a reasonable case to me on any matter that I will be able to modify, I will give it serious consideration.

Would the Government consider buying the Phoenix Park course and, if not recommencing racing there, creating a major sporting centre in that very desirable location?

Deputy McGahan will appreciate I have a little unfinished business — it is nearly finished — in Mallow and I will then consider the Phoenix Park.

Will the Minister announce the purchase of Mallow, for the fourth time, before the European elections?

Question put and agreed to.