Betting (Amendment) Bill 2013: Second Stage

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The Betting (Amendment) Bill 2013 was published in July last and was subject to a three month standstill period under the EU technical standards directive. During this time, several communications seeking clarification around aspects of the Bill were received from the Commission and responded to by my officials.

The Bill is designed to provide a regulatory system for remote bookmakers and betting intermediaries, otherwise known as betting exchanges, offering betting services in Ireland regardless of their location. In addition, it provides for a fair and equal treatment of all bookmakers, including traditional and remote, and betting exchanges offering services in Ireland.

Provision was made in the Finance Act 2011 for the taxation of remote bookmakers and betting exchanges, subject to a ministerial commencement order. This Bill seeks to bring all remote bookmakers and betting intermediaries into the licensing and taxation regime. The new licensing system for remote operators will serve the important public interest in preventing crime and protecting consumers against fraud and will ensure all businesses offering betting services from Ireland or to persons in Ireland are treated equally and regulated appropriately. For that purpose, the Bill amends the Betting Act 1931, which contains the existing provisions governing the licensing of bookmakers.

The Bill does not deal with the rate of duty on betting services, since that is more appropriate to Finance Acts, nor does it deal with the funding of the horse and greyhound industry, which is primarily a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. I will go through the Bill and describe the main provisions.

Section 1 states that the principal Act is the Betting Act 1931. Section 2 provides for several amendments to certain definitions contained in the Betting Act 1931 and inserts new definitions to allow for the regulation of remote operations. Section 3 sets out the issue of residency of a body corporate and an unincorporated body of persons.

Section 4 replaces section 2 of the Betting Act 1931 and provides that it is an offence to act as a bookmaker, a remote bookmaker or remote betting intermediary without a licence. Furthermore, it makes it an offence for an unlicensed remote bookmaker or betting intermediary from outside the State to communicate or attempt to communicate with a person within the State for betting purposes. In addition, the section sets out the penalties for such an offence on summary conviction and on indictment. The section, as initiated, sets out the measures that may be taken by the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Revenue Commissioners in this regard.

Sections 5 and 6 insert a new section 2 into the principal Act, making it an offence where a person other than a licensed bookmaker, remote bookmaker or betting intermediary holds himself or herself out to be a licensed bookmaker, remote bookmaker or betting intermediary. The new sections provide for penalties associated with such offences and allow for the continuation of proceedings initiated under these sections in the absence of the person charged.

Sections 7 to 12, inclusive, set out the application process for a certificate that a person is a fit and proper person to hold a bookmaker's licence, a remote bookmaker's licence or a remote betting intermediary licence. In respect of a person ordinarily resident in the State, the application for a bookmaker's licence is made to the superintendent of the Garda Síochána for the district where the person resides or for the district where the bookmaker's premises is located.

A person resident outside the State makes an application to the Minister for Justice and Equality. The application for a certificate of personal fitness to hold a remote bookmaker's licence or remote betting intermediary's licence is made to the Minister. These sections also provide a timeline for the issue of such certificates, the basis for refusing a certificate and penalties for making or providing false or misleading statements or information in the course of an application for a certificate. They also deal with the length of time a certificate of personal fitness remains in force and set out the reasons for and the basis under which a certificate may be revoked and the grounds for refusal or revocation of a certificate.

Sections 13 and 14 provide for the issue by the Revenue Commissioners of bookmaker, remote bookmaker and remote betting intermediary licences, the period of validity of which will be up to two years. These sections set out the requirements on the applicant, including a certificate of personal fitness and a tax clearance certificate, as well as the payment of the appropriate excise duty for the licence to the Revenue Commissioners. The bookmaker's licence allows the holder not only to carry on the business of bookmaker, but also to accept bets by remote means up to a certain value.

Sections 15 and 16 set out the obligations on an individual and a body corporate licence applicant or holder, first, to notify the Garda Síochána or the Minister for Justice and Equality of relevant convictions and, second, to notify the Minister of a change of name of the relevant officer in a body corporate. The section includes the time within which notification should take place and the penalties involved for failing to comply.

Sections 17 to 19, inclusive, provide that the Revenue Commissioners will publish the register of bookmaking offices on the Internet or in such other form as they consider appropriate. These sections also provide for the establishment, maintenance and publication of a register of licensed bookmakers, remote bookmaking operations of all remote bookmaker licences and remote betting intermediary licences by the Revenue Commissioners and stipulates the details to be included. It also provides for removal from the register where a licence is revoked.

Sections 20 and 21 deal with the appeals procedures following refusal to grant a certificate of personal fitness or a certificate of suitability of premises, or the revocation of such a certificate. Section 22 provides for the extension of the operation of a licence in certain circumstances where a new certificate of personal fitness has not issued, has been refused or is subject to appeal.

Section 23 deals with the revocation of licences by the District Court on the application of the Minister for Justice and Equality. The section also provides that the District Court, on making an order to revoke a licence, may also make orders regarding banking arrangements, advertising, sponsorship and the blocking of access to Internet sites.

Section 24 makes it an offence to use the premises for purposes other than bookmaking. Section 25 extends the opening hours for registered bookmakers' premises from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. all year round. It also provides for penalties where these opening hours are contravened.

Sections 26 to 28, inclusive, extend the prohibition on betting for persons under the age of 18 to the remote sector and deal with under age persons on the premises as well as persons making false statements about their age.

Section 29 provides for an application by the Minister for Justice and Equality to the District Court to make orders where sections 2, 2A and 23 have been breached. This is designed to offer a means of enforcing compliance with a licence requirement and includes, inter alia, an order that credit institutions do not transact business in regard to certain accounts used in the conduct of bookmaking and remote bookmaking, a prohibition on advertising and sponsorship, and a requirement on telecommunications service providers to block access to certain Internet sites.

Section 30 provides the means by which a notice or other document may be served under the Act. Section 31 provides that where an offence has been committed by a body corporate with the consent of an individual, that individual is also guilty of an offence and is liable to be proceeded against.

Section 32 inserts section 32D into the principal Act and provides that specific information may be provided to the Minister for Justice and Equality by the Revenue Commissioners and the Garda Síochána to allow him or her to carry out his or her functions under the Act. The section also allows the Minister to enter into administration co-operation arrangements with foreign statutory bodies.

Section 33 amends the Betting Act 1931 by inserting a section providing for the annulment of regulations made under the Act by the Oireachtas. Sections 34 to 37, inclusive, amend definitions provided for in Finance Acts and provide for technical amendments to the principal Act. Section 38 provides for the Short Title, collective citation and commencement of the Act.

A number of matters are under consideration which I may bring forward on Committee Stage, including changes to the respective roles of the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Revenue Commissioners around compliance issues. I will, of course, also give consideration to any constructive suggestions put forward during the debate.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate. The key element of this legislation is the provision to extend the applicability of the 1% betting duty applied in betting shops to telephone and Internet bets. This is very much an overdue piece of legislation as the Finance Act 2011 provided for to the extension of the betting duty subject to an appropriate licensing mechanism being put in place.

It has taken an inordinate length of time to achieve this. In the intervening three years, upwards of €4 billion in bets placed remotely have escaped the 1% betting duty, resulting in a loss to the Exchequer of some €40 million. At a time when the public finances are so stretched, we must question the reason for this extensive delay. Yesterday, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, launched a glossy public service reform plan and progress report. Given the amount of tax forgone as a result of the failure to put a new licensing regime in place, it is reasonable that we ask whether there was a justifiable cause for the delay that has occurred. Does the Minister, Deputy Noonan, expect the licensing process to be up and running this year and revenue to accrue to the State in 2014? If so, how does he propose to spend it?

Betting duty is a key source of funding for the horse and greyhound racing industry, but its relative importance in supporting the sector has declined in recent years. This occurred as recession took its toll on the overall level of betting and as technological and social developments resulted in more bets being placed remotely. It is very significant that betting duty now accounts for only half of the entire allocation to the horse and greyhound racing fund. It is understandable that the State would seek to support the horse industry as it is a vital source of employment. The Irish greyhound industry is by far and away ahead of its United Kingdom counterpart. Its success would not have been possible without the fixed 20% allocation from the horse and greyhound racing fund on an annual basis.

Separate entirely from the 6,000 or so people employed in the betting industry, it is estimated that in 2009 some 15,000 were employed in the thoroughbred industry in Ireland. This is a vital source of badly needed jobs, particularly in rural Ireland. It is important that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine should provide an update as to his future plans for the horse and greyhound racing fund. The amount of money allocated to the industry has fallen from a peak of €73 million in 2007 to €54 million this year. Is it the intention of Government that all or part of the approximate additional €14 million that will be raised as a result of this measure will accrue to the industry, or will the Minister for Finance reduce the Exchequer's contribution accordingly? Most people would agree that, in so far as is possible, the industry should be self-financing, particularly in these straitened times. If the current level of funding under the horse and greyhound racing fund is to be maintained, there will be a continuing need for a subvention of approximately €15 million from the central Exchequer.

In the context of future financial planning and the need for certainty, the Government must answer certain questions.

The Minister does not appear to intend to take up the suggestion contained in the Indecon report of 2012 whereby the tax on betting would be increased by effective 2%, possibly by means of a 1% deduction from winning bets in addition to the 1% betting duty. Such a move could certainly have secured the funding model for the horse and greyhound industry for the years ahead. I would like the Minister to outline his views on the merits of increasing betting duty at this time. I am conscious that he must take account of the need to protect jobs in the domestic betting industry. In this regard and in welcoming the extension of the levy to online activity, I wish to sound a note of caution. There must be a level playing pitch for all operators, regardless of the level of duty applied. We refer a great deal to attracting foreign direct investment, and rightly so, but we sometimes fail to give adequate support to domestic companies. Within the betting and gaming industry we have two major domestic success stories, namely, Paddy Power and Boylesports. Paddy Power has grown to be a multinational in its own right, with over 2,000 employees in Ireland and a large and growing business overseas. In fact, two thirds of the company's profits are generated outside Ireland. In 2010 it paid €42 million in taxes to the Irish Exchequer, nearly half of which originated from business overseas. This amount to which I refer was more than the entire take from betting duty. The company's advertising model is certainly quirky and may overstep the mark occasionally. Arguably, it did so in the context of one recent campaign but in putting in place a tax regime for online betting we should be careful to ensure that compliant Irish-based companies will not be placed at a disadvantage relative to non-Irish operators.

I have no doubt that long-established foreign-owned bookmakers will be keen to fully comply with the legislation, when enacted. However, there is a danger that certain online operators might seek to circumvent the obligation to pay the duty and thereby gain an advantage over their rivals. I hope the regime that is being put in place will be sufficiently strong to prevent this from occurring. I ask the Minister, his officials and the Revenue to be alert to any potential leakage of financial proceeds offshore in this manner and to examine the possibility of putting in place measures to prevent anyone trying to circumvent the legislation. Other countries have strict controls in respect of online gambling and these prevent certain operators from entering the market. The US, despite being a generally deregulated economy, places severe restriction on Internet gambling. France effectively has a state monopoly. The authorities in both countries are of the view that such measures are in their national interest. We should not be afraid to revisit the legislation should loopholes emerge when it is implemented.

The advent of betting exchanges was one of the most significant changes in the betting industry in the past ten years or so. In view of the fact that they have essentially been able to bet among themselves - this is facilitated by means of an exchange - punters have been able to cut out the traditional bookmaker and potentially obtain better odds for themselves. However, this is not without risk. Punters often complain that it is very difficult to back a winner and that giving people the chance to make money by betting on a horse, team or player to lose considerably increases the scope for unscrupulous individuals to make substantial sums of money. It is interesting to note that a midweek race at an English track involving prize money of as little as £2,000 can sometimes generate bets of over £1 million on the exchanges. The fact that it is a great deal easier to pick a loser rather than a winner is self-evident. In that context, there have been a number of high profile cases whereby people with inside information that a fancied horse would not be trying too hard to win a particular race made huge sums of money from placing their bets accordingly. This is a potentially huge threat to the integrity of the racing industry worldwide. There have also been reports of betting syndicates making enormous sums of money from insider knowledge relating to snooker and football.

Remote betting organisations do not currently need certificates of personal fitness or bookmaking licences in order to offer Irish residents bookmaking services over the phone or via the Internet. Section 14 requires bookmakers who want to operate in Ireland remotely to apply for and receive a remote bookmakers licence. Those offering remote services that allow individuals to bet against each other must have a remote betting intermediary's licence. I welcome this provision but I want a rigorous enforcement mechanism to be put in place in parallel. The major exchanges have signed memorandums of understanding with various sporting bodies concerning the supply of information when suspicious activity takes place. This is a welcome development but it does not go far enough. There is potential for new entrants to the market operating from overseas to be less rigorous in their approach. If a particular operator is in any way seen as being lax in monitoring suspicious betting patterns, then that operator's licence should be revoked. I understand that the definition of a bookmaker could mean that some users of betting exchanges may need to apply for bookmaking licences. In using betting exchanges, it is possible for one to be the layer for multiple bets and essentially to be acting as a bookmaking business oneself. Where a person is effectively operating a business as an unlicensed bookmaker on an ongoing basis, this should be identified and he or she should be subject to the same duty as licensed bookmakers.

I wish to take this opportunity to comment on the on-course betting market in Ireland, which appears is in near terminal decline. As well as providing the bread-and-butter activity of the horse racing industry, our racecourses are a key part of our tourism offering. In recent years on-course betting has fallen by 60%. Outside of the big festival meetings, it is now almost non-existent. This is bad news not just for racecourses but also for the horse racing industry. The fall-off in on-course activity reflects both the general decline in overall betting activity but also the fact that a considerable amount of such activity has moved online, a phenomenon with which on-course bookmakers find it very difficult to compete. If the on-course industry is to survive, it will be obliged to make changes and modernise how it does business. However, we should also review how the sector is taxed and regulated. If we lose on-course bookmakers, we will have lost a considerable element of the colour that makes Irish racing unique. I ask the Minister to consult his colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, in order to see what can be done before the on-course betting market is wiped out altogether.

This afternoon the Chief Whip published the legislative programme for the spring-summer session. I am deeply disappointed that the publication of the gambling control Bill has been pushed back to 2015. It is entirely possible that this legislation will not be enacted before the end of next year. While the regulation of gambling from a consumer protection point of view is not covered in the Bill before the House, it is disappointing that the Government has put gambling control on the long finger. While it will be collecting additional revenue this year and next from taxes on betting, it is failing in its duty to people who are vulnerable to problem gambling in the context of putting in place a proper legislative regime which provides the necessary protections. The societal consequences of gambling form a major part of the debate on this matter, particularly in the context of those who become so addicted to this activity that they often prioritise it above the need to meet essential financial requirements or obligations such as making mortgage repayments, paying day-to-day bills, etc. This is a problem and the sooner we acknowledge that fact the better. The Government should afford equal priority to the gambling control legislation and the Bill which is before the House. I would like the former to be brought forward as quickly as possible.

When the legislation to which I refer eventually comes before the House, I will be arguing that there is a need for tighter controls in the area of online gambling in particular. While responsible gambling is an enjoyable leisure activity for most punters, considerable numbers of individuals proceed to form an addiction. In the case of online betting, it is easy for this to be hidden from family and friends. It is simple to download an app to one's mobile phone in order that one can gamble at any hour of the day or night, unbeknownst to one's wife or partner. By engaging in such activity, one could be placing the financial future of one's family in jeopardy. There is a need for an honest debate on this matter. There is also a need for legislation of a particular kind to combat this problem, which is prevalent here and further afield. Anyone who watches an English Premier League soccer match or any other major sporting event on television or elsewhere is literally bombarded with the option to bet on all sorts of outcomes. This appears to be the predominant method of advertising used during the coverage of sporting events on television. I suggest that there is a need to introduce controls whereby a person opening a betting account would be required to specify the maximum loss he or she is willing to incur on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

This is currently carried out on an opt-in basis and we need to review it. I would like to see a limit on the number of deposits a person can make with a personal debit or credit card over a determined time period.

The Bill provides for a potentially significant expansion of betting shop opening hours, about which I have reservations. It is true that people can bet around the clock by using a smart phone or iPad but I am unsure whether the extension of betting office opening hours will do anything positive for society in general. I am not sure there was much appetite among bookmakers for extending the opening hours but we need to hear their views. It is likely to increase costs for independent operators and make it more difficult for them to compete against the larger multiples.

I welcome the Bill, which is overdue. The additional revenue it will collect will be welcome. I have some reservations as outlined and I look forward to Committee Stage which will provide an opportunity to table amendments and to have a more detailed discussion on individual sections of the Bill.

Deputy Pearse Doherty is sharing time with Deputy Seán Crowe.

Sa chéad dul síos, cuirim fáilte roimh an mBille. Bille teicniúil atá ann ó thaobh na hearnála seo, ach níl dabht ar bith le roinnt blianta anois go bhfuil sé thar am agus muid ag fanacht ar sa Teacht. Tá fhios againn gur tháinig sé aníos an chéad uair sa Bhille Airgeadais i 2011. Ó thaobh dul chun cinn ó shin, bhí sé ar an gclár oibrithe, an clár reachtaíochta, anuraidh. Is muid ag déileáil leis an gcoiste airgeadais, ábhar imní dúinn nach raibh sé i bhfeidhm. Níl dabht ar bith go bhfuil airgead caillte ag an Stát mar gheall ar nach raibh an Bille i bhfeidhm ó 2011. Tuigfimid gur féidir €20 milliún in aghaidh na bliana a thabhairt isteach nuair a bheidh an Bille i bhfeidhm. Bhí ciorruithe €20 milliún ar dhaoine gan mhórán, agus is mór an trua é nach rabhamar ábalta an Bille seo a thógáil níos luaithe. Comhlachtaí móra agus comhlachtaí beaga atá i gceist anseo is iad ag glacadh le geall ar an idirlíon agus a leithéid. I mo thuairim, níl siad ag íoc an méid cheart.

Tá an Bille os comhair na Dála anois, agus is maith an rud é sin. Tabharfaidh Sinn Féin tacaíocht don Bhille. Ba cheart go mbeadh a leithéid ann. Mar atá ráite agam go mion is go minic, agus mar atá curtha chun tosaigh agam ar son mo pháirtí i ndoiciméad maidir leis an gcáinaisnéis, is féidir leis an ráta a ardú ó 1% go 3%. An plé a bhí againn anuraidh agus i mbliana ag an choiste airgeadais – bhí an tAire Hayes ag an gcoiste ag an am sin más buan mo chuimhne – agus an plean a bhí ann ná an reachtaíocht a fhoilsiú ar dtús agus go síleann an tAire go bhfuil scóip ann an ráta a ardú amach anseo. Aontaím leis sin agus tá sé sin ceart go leor. Tá súil agam go dtarlóidh sin.

Ceann de na himníthe móra atá ag Sinn Féin ná conas a n-oibreofar seo. An mbeidh na hacmhainní ceart ann sa dóigh gur féidir cinntiú go bhfuil na dlíthe agus an reachtaíocht á chur i bhfeidhm? Beimid ag déileáil le daoine taobh amuigh den tír agus bhféidir go mbeadh siad ag obair in éadain an Bhille. Cén dóigh inar féidir linn iad a fháil ciontach más rud é nach bhfuil siad lonnaithe sa tír seo?

Is muid ag déileáil leis an Idirlíon, éiríonn rudaí iontach gasta agus aontaím leis an méid a dúirt an Teachta McGrath gur chóir súil géar a chineál ar an mBille agus go mbeadh athbhreithniú ann go rialta, ní hamháin in aghaidh bliana, ach in aghaidh gach cúpla mí chun a chinntiú nach bhfuil rudaí ag athrú agus go bhfuil an Bille ag oibriú i gceart. Más fiú é sin a dhéanamh, beidh tacaíocht ina leith ó Shinn Féin.

The Bill is welcome and long overdue. The previous version of the Bill sat on the Order Paper for well over a year. This legislation had its origins in the Finance Bill 2011 which provided for the intention to tax online betting and betting exchanges. There is no moral or economic argument for online betting and betting exchanges to remain outside the tax net.

I have raised this matter in the past and with the betting exchanges in private meetings. It is amazing that betting exchanges were not subject to VAT or to excise duties. It is very clear that betting exchanges are providing a service and therefore, should be subject to VAT. I have used parliamentary questions to the Minister to ask which legislation provides them with this exemption but I am still no clearer. For example, a betting exchange is a service which facilitates me placing a bet and Deputy Michael McGrath placing a bet and then puts the two of us together. Any other service would be subject to VAT.

I have raised this issue previously with the Minister. A local supermarket is a very good employer in the community and contributes to the community through support and donations to community groups and school organisations. The supermarket was approached by a local charity to sell mass cards and it allowed some counter space to be provided for the sale of mass cards with all profits going to the local friary. The Revenue Commissioners took the view that even though the supermarket was not making any profit from the sale of the mass cards, it was subject to VAT since this practice commenced about ten years ago. The Revenue's view was that the shop offered a service which could increase business in the shop because it had facilitated the sale of mass cards by allowing the charity to benefit from the use of the counter space. The Revenue applied the letter of the law in that case but there can be no doubt that large betting exchanges which are heavily bank-rolled by multimillionaires in this State are offering a service. The betting exchange will put together two people who want to place a bet and the service-provider - Betdaq or whatever - takes a profit in the form of a commission, but VAT does not apply. The State has lost millions of euro because of this exemption. It is a question as to why the Revenue has never applied VAT to this service.

The Department of Justice and Equality is preparing the gambling control Bill. It is unfortunate that the two Bills are not being taken together because these issues are inter-related. The Rutland Centre has noted an increase in the number of problem gamblers availing of its service because of the availability of online gambling. Thanks to mobile telephones, gamblers now have a bookie in their pockets. I enjoy a punt now and again on big occasions. For all we know there could be a Deputy using an iPhone under the table in the Chamber to put a bet on a race.

It must be recognised that gambling is a choice and it causes societal harm. Many Members have a close affinity with the horse racing tradition. It is quite a while since I was in the Members' bar and I am not sure if the trophies are still in the corner which had been won by horses belonging to syndicates of Members. We all know about the Galway races and the infamous tent.

People, in particular Irish people, have a very close affinity to horseracing, but it is a choice and something which is addictive. That addiction can lead to financial and social disaster for some. Not too long ago, betting duty was 10%. Today, many gamblers are paying no tax by gambling online.

Over recent months, we have discussed basic services - rights, in my view - such as the roof over one's head or water. The Government believes one should be taxed because one has a roof over one's head or because one has running water. However, in regard to these betting exchanges, until now the choice one had to participate was not taxed in an appropriate manner, outside of corporation tax. Accordingly, it must be taxed to reflect these facts.

Online bookies and betting exchanges operating outside the formal tax net must come to an end and the State is fully entitled to tax their earnings, as it is with the local bookies or any other business operating in the State. The question must be asked as to how much revenue the State has lost as a result of not bringing forward the Betting (Amendment) Bill to implement the Finance Act 2011.

We fully appreciate the importance of the bookmaking industry. The local bookie is an important part of the economic structure of many of our towns and villages and it is one we want to see continue. As I said, in our fully costed budget alternative for 2014, Sinn Féin proposed the rapid introduction of the main measures in this Bill and levying the betting tax at 3%. As I said, I know the Government is open to the idea of increasing this once the legislation is in place and I encourage it to do that as the resources are much-needed. That is a fair level at which gambling should be taxed because gambling is discretionary spending and should be treated as such. Sinn Féin is not opposing this Bill because it is a sensible move and I look forward to dealing with the detail of it when it comes to Committee Stage.

The previous speaker raised the issue of the definition of "bookmaker" and said the term "layer of bets" should not be included. It has been raised with me, as I am sure it has been with Deputy Michael McGrath, who raised the same issue, that the current wording may exclude some layers who operate in non-traditional ways. Clearly, it is imperative that the definition of "bookmaker" is correct in order that as many people as possible are brought into the tax net and that the scope for a shady black market economy is limited.

As somebody who has facilitated different groups in holding so-called night at the races events, when I read the definition of "bookmaker", I wondered whether people who hold such events for charity groups would be subject to the definition of "bookmaker". The key word here is "business". It must be in the course of one's business that one would set odds, take bets and make a promise to pay out. I have never charged for holding night at the races events, but for anybody who charges €300 or €400 to do so, it is part of their business in that he or she sets odds, takes bets and pays out on those bets. Perhaps it is the intention that they are bookmakers, but in my view they are not but are businesses separate from what we know as traditional bookmakers.

The issue of VAT needs to be examined retrospectively or, at least we need clarification as to how that has happened. We will examine the detail on Committee Stage, including the licensing conditions and how important they are. Obviously, we want to encourage new entries into this market. Somebody from my county entered the market recently. We see one of the McEniff family, Seanie Mac, advertise on television quite regularly and we wish any local Irish entrepreneur every success in the future, but it is important the licensing regime is speedy and that we ensure the necessary requirements in this Bill are implemented effectively and without delay to allow new investors - entrepreneurs - to set up without delay.

Another issue raised with me is the record of some companies which have been found to be in violation of laws in other jurisdictions in which they are operating. What safeguards will be put in place to ensure international operators have a clean record? We know there is a requirement from the Minister for Justice and Equality but how far will his reach go in regard to this matter?

Currently, every last cent of tax from gambling in this State is going to fund the horse and greyhound racing industry. On top of that, the State tops up this fund from general taxation. There is a question as to how the Minister sees the Bill affecting the funding model in the future. Does he believe that with the introduction of this Bill there will be no need for an increase from general taxation to that fund? Does he believe the proceeds from this legislation should go into the fund regardless of how much they are or will some be diverted into other expenditure?

Until 2002, the revenue raised by betting duty matched the contribution from the Exchequer to the horse and greyhound industry, but since then the State has had to top it up to a considerable extent. In 2012, betting duty amounted to only 48% of the funding. I fully appreciate the economic benefits these industries bring to the economy. The Indecon report from 2012 stated that more than 20,000 people are employed by the horseracing industry alone.

There is, however, a genuine question about ring-fencing some of the revenue for the treatment of gambling addiction and awareness programmes. It would be a very sensible measure for this Minister to announce. Of late, there have been many high profile cases of prominent sports people who have struggled with a gambling addition, and there is a question as to what hope this Bill will bring to them when we know that the gambling control Bill has been put on the long finger.

The core of this Bill is worthy of support. There are areas which I hope we can tease out on Committee Stage and we will do that in an open, honest and frank way. I thank the Minister for bringing this Bill forward.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Betting (Amendment) Bill 2013. I suppose some people will say this is another advance for the nanny state, that it is taxing the working man, that there are few pleasures left in life, that it started off taxing the pint and now it will tax bets. However, it is welcome we are bringing forward this legislation to tax online bookies and betting exchanges. I suppose, like other speakers, I have listened out for comment on this debate but I have not heard any moral or economic arguments that these services should remain outside the tax net. The big question people will ask following the introduction of this legislation is why it was not introduced years ago. I do not know if there were difficulties, if there was a lack of political will or if this Government sees this as a potential cash cow. I would like to think the Government recognises the difficulties and dangers and that more people in society are being sucked into gambling.

As other speakers said, the Department of Justice and Equality is working on a gambling control Bill which will deal with many of the issues affecting those who are addicted to gambling. As previous speakers have said and speakers who will follow me will say, many people will not understand why we are separating the two Bills. It will cause difficulties. We are possibly talking about next year before the gambling control Bill is introduced, which is a big negative in this regard.

I support the Bill which is of the utmost importance because gambling addition has negatively affected thousands of families in Ireland. I do not believe there is anyone in this House who does not know a family or an individual who has not been affected by gambling. This is of the utmost importance because gambling addition is on the increase. I do not know whether that is due to easier access.

A number of years ago, in particular in the Dublin area, we had the one-arm bandit gambling machines but they are not seen as much around the city because legislation was passed by the local authorities to ban them. In the 1970s and 1980s, we had the slot machines and the poker machines.

I remember during the 1970s and 1980s, many pubs had a gambling machine - a slot machine or poker machine - in the corner. Unfortunately, these machines are popping up once again in many public houses and places where people gather. I have been calling for a long time for legislation which would stop the glamorising of gambling. I am in favour of the introduction of a health warning with regard to gambling activities and the provision of increased supports to gambling addicts.

Gambling is a choice. I am aware that many people enjoy placing modest bets. It must be emphasised that many people from all walks of society have gambling problems that have a negative effect on their families and loved ones. We all know of cases of people who are addicted to gambling. I have seen people gambling their entire wages on games of snooker, poker or football. The advent of online gambling - others have spoken about gambling applications - makes it much easier for people to engage in this activity. When one went into certain pubs in Dublin many years ago, when there was a lack of gambling opportunities in the neighbourhood, one would see someone in the corner who was willing to take bets and bring them on. While this is another example of something that has faded away, one can still see bookie dockets in many places right across Ireland as agreements with local bookies are still in place to facilitate gambling. While it is right that a big debate is taking place about the drinks industry's association with sport, I cannot understand why the same level of concern is not being expressed as part of a discussion about gambling and sport. Other Deputies have spoken about the advertisements that appear during the break in a football match. We are reminded that a certain player was 2/1 to score the first goal, and that one could have won a certain amount of money by backing him to do so. All of this sucks people into the gambling culture. It is almost as if the football match is a separate matter.

The Deputy is showing that he is anti-craic.

The easy accessibility and normalisation of online and offline betting is a curse for many families and individuals. We all have experiences involving young people who have gone online and used credit cards. Women and men participate in this activity at all hours of the night. Huge bills arrive months later. This is another difficulty that families have. Other countries have ensured gambling advertisements are followed by health warnings. This was drawn to my attention recently by a German woman whose son has an addiction. She told me that a moratorium applies to gambling advertisements in her country. She gave me an example. She said that an RTE feature on the support offered by the Rutland Centre, which deals with addiction, was recently followed by an advertisement for a well-known bookie. I heard the advertisement in question on the same day. It highlighted the benefits of betting and all the great things that can come from placing a bet. There was no health warning and no reference to the negative impact of gambling on families. If we accept that certain dangers are associated with gambling, we need to follow the German approach by updating our laws to regulate advertisements in this area. I suggest that the issue we are talking about should be linked to the gambling control legislation. That is probably a debate for another day.

I am glad the Government is recognising that gambling addition is a serious issue. I welcome the work that is being done to introduce regulations in this regard and to bring online bookies and betting exchanges into the tax net. Online and offline gambling can bring short-term joy to some people. Unfortunately, many lives have been left destroyed by this addiction. It is time for us to legislate to tackle the gambling addiction crisis that is facing society. Accordingly, gambling must be taxed to reflect these facts. Online bookies and betting exchanges should not be allowed any longer to operate outside the normal tax net. The State is fully entitled to take a share of their earnings, just as it does in the case of a local bookie or any other business operating in the State, and it should do so. In our recent budget proposals for 2014, we argued that the main measures in this Bill, which we support, should be introduced rapidly. We have proposed that the betting tax should be levied at 3%. I would like the tax revenues raised by the Government as a result of this Bill to be reinvested to a large extent in addiction services, with a particular focus on gambling addiction. My colleague, Deputy Pearse Doherty, has dealt with some of the concerns we have regarding this legislation. We look forward to the discussion on the detail of the Bill.

I would like to mention some other aspects of this issue. Reference has been made to what was happening in the Galway tent. We know that all sorts of financial agreements were made in that regard. In recent years, we have heard about criminal involvement in placing bets. People use gambling as a means of laundering money. Now that online betting is to be taxed, it will probably be used as a means of proving that money was raised legitimately. I suppose there are positives and negatives in this approach. Someone will probably take advantage of it. Some Deputies suggested that smaller bookies might go out of business as a result of what is being done. I am more concerned about the effect of the spread of gambling. If we can put up some sort of barrier that prevents young people, in particular, from getting involved in gambling, this will be a positive measure. I began by saying that people will see this as a further extension of the nanny state. I think the imposition of a tax on this activity is a positive move. As gambling continues to grow, its effects on society are getting worse. We need to do something. If some good can come out of taxing the gambling industry, it will be a positive thing for society. If we ignore the industry and let it develop the way it is going, things will get worse. My feeling is for the families of those individuals who are addicted to gambling. This Bill will not help them, but I hope the other legislation that is to be introduced next year will resolve some of these issues.

I would like to share time with Deputies Healy-Rae and Mathews.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak on the Betting (Amendment) Bill 2013. I welcome the debate on this important issue for society. My view on this legislation differs from that of many of my colleagues who have spoken during this debate. It is important to have a fair and balanced look at this Bill. There are still people who want to stop people from having fun by putting a few bob on a horse, a match or a game of cards. The nanny state brigade should never be allowed to hinder or penalise the regular moderate punter who wants to put on a bet. It is important to stand up for the silent majority in this debate. I refer to those who simply want to have a bit of fun, make a contribution in tax and, above all, generate and create jobs. It is very important we say this during the debate.

The Deputy has gone populist.

He took the same approach to the smoking ban.

That is the balanced view. We should never allow a vocal and negative minority, or a vested interest group, to stop this type of leisure activity. That is the bottom line. I will deal later with the addiction issue that has been mentioned by my colleague, Deputy Crowe. I agree with him on that issue. I will come to that after I have focused on the nuts and bolts of this legislation.

It is important we look at the economic side of this issue. It should be the most important part of any debate in this country at present. I refer to what is going on in the Irish thoroughbred horse industry, for example. It is estimated the industry was worth some €1.2 billion to the economy in 2008. This figure decreased to approximately €900 million in 2010. It is estimated that some 15,084 people were working in the industry, excluding the betting sector, in 2008.

A total of 6,100 were employed in the breeding sector and 6,300 in the racing sector, with 2,650 others employed in the sector in 2008. Those are the figures and that is the economic reality of this debate. It was estimated that in 2010 the number of jobs in the sector had fallen by more than 3,700 and stood at 17,351. Approximately 2,000 jobs were lost in the breeding sector, 1,000 in the racing sector and 700 in others areas. Having a good strong horse industry creates jobs and people have a bit of fun. What is wrong with that?

Approximately 11,000 people are directly and indirectly employed in the greyhound industry and it is estimated to be responsible for more than €500 million in economic turnover. These jobs represent a broad spread of different employment types across the greyhound and horse sectors, and thus there may be some double counting in these figures. There are 14,000 greyhounds in training and the annual spending associated with the breeding, rearing, training and racing of greyhounds amounts to some €64.4 million. The greyhound industry also has a significant export dimension with 8,000 dogs exported to Britain. When discussing the Betting (Amendment) Bill we also need to focus on the other side.

I accept the concerns of my colleagues on the addiction issue. We need to look seriously at the issue which is why I strongly support the radical proposals and also the issue of regulation. We need to have that in place for safeguards because we must accept that some people are vulnerable. However, we cannot blame the vast majority of moderate people. I have a couple of bets a week on football or horses. I enjoy it and I do it in a moderate way. That is how most people do it and that is how life is. It is like alcohol addiction. Some people like to go out for a pint and have a chat with their neighbours and friends. There is no reason for blaming alcohol for the problems other people have in society. We need to ensure we do not blame the moderate person for the actions of a minority of others.

A friend of mine recently suggested to me that because of mass unemployment and poverty, some people are very vulnerable to putting money on in the bookies in the morning or late at night hoping they will win a huge sum of money to feed their families. While this is something, the way to deal with that is to deal with the issue of unemployment and create jobs. I mentioned some of the statistics earlier. The jobs issue is crucial to dealing with that issue.

I welcome the regulation because I know from experience that we need to be very conscious of what goes on in the criminal underclass. I am concerned at the number of innocent people who were cut down in the streets in recent days and nobody seems to bat an eyelid about them. In the city of Dublin I am also concerned that the criminal gangs are using bookie shops to launder some of their money. It is important to mention these real issues while debating this legislation because they form the heart and soul of legislation. When dealing with legislation in the Dáil, it is wrong not to take into consideration the consequences for the citizens of the State, including jobs, mass unemployment, poverty and other such issues. That is where we are going wrong and we need to focus on that every day of our lives in the Oireachtas. That is why it is very important that Members of the Oireachtas stay in touch with people on the ground.

I am delighted to see the Minister for Finance in the Chamber today. I believe he is a man who likes the odd bet or two, but I will not go there. The Finance Act 2011 extended betting duty to online and offshore telephone betting. Prior to commencing the extension of betting duty, however, a new licensing regime for online or remote betting needed to be put in place. The Betting (Amendment) Bill 2013 introduces this new licensing system. The new system creates two new licences: a remote bookmaker's licence for those offering normal bookmaking services by remote means, and a remote betting intermediaries licence for those offering betting exchange services that allow individuals to bet against each other with no risk to the intermediary.

The Betting (Amendment) Bill was published in July 2012 and the work continued right on to 2013. The work was then passed on to the European Commission on 18 July 2013. Once the Act is commenced, the taking of bets from Irish residents by remote means will be an offence unless the taker has a remote bookmaker's licence or a remote betting intermediary's licence. I warmly welcome that very positive development, which is why I am supporting the legislation. A person with an ordinary bookmaker's licence can also take bets by remote means up to a certain value of betting turnover - €250,000 or 10% of total betting turnover, whichever is lower. This will be enforced by the Minister for Justice and Equality sending a notice to non-compliant remote bookmakers or remote betting intermediaries outlining their breach of the law and the remedies available to them to end their non-compliance. As I mentioned earlier, the role of the Minister for Justice and Equality regarding the criminal gangs is important and also regarding the enforcement of the legislation. If they fail to take action, the Minister can prosecute them in the District Court or a higher court, or ask the District Court to order that credit institutions cease to transact with them, or prohibit them advertising or sponsoring sports events, or order telecoms and Internet service providers to block access to their Internet websites. That is a strong and decisive provision in the legislation, which is what we need when dealing with this issue and regulation.

The Bill makes a number of other changes to the current application system for a bookmaker's licence and replicates these changes for the new remote licences. These include allowing corporate bodies, that is, companies, to hold a bookmaker's licences for the first time and updating the factors a Garda superintendent or the Minister for Justice and Equality can consider when making a judgment on an application for a certificate of personal fitness. This certificate is needed to apply for a bookmaker's licence. It is important to have this kind of strong legislation. We do not want the wrong people getting involved in this industry, as happened in the past in the US and countries in Europe. This is something we need to deal with.

Other changes the Bill include longer opening hours for registered bookmaking offices, new registers of those with licences and permits under the Betting Acts and providing for these registers to be published online, prohibiting online betting by those aged under 18, and defining the term "bookmaker" in legislation for the first time. There has also been a row about this because some people believe bookmakers should not have longer opening hours. People in life have choices and if they want to have a bet when it suits them, they should be given that choice. People with a major view or a vested interest should not be allowed to block people going in and putting a few bob on a football match if it starts at 7.30 p.m. or it is half-time in a match and they want to have a bit of fun with neighbours and friends. While regulation is important, let us be open and flexible.

The main purpose of the Bill is to license remote betting operators in order to extend betting duty to remote betting by Irish residents. This extension should raise approximately €14 million per year in additional betting duty revenue if all remote betting is channelled through compliant operators. The Minister for Finance should be rubbing his hands in glee that approximately €14 million can be brought in. Let us look at those ideas rather than looking at other old-fashioned conservative ideas. If people are prepared to put money on the horses or a match, there is nothing wrong with taxing them. In times of recession there is nothing wrong with considering increasing those taxes because they are leisure activities and people will not whinge too much about it whereas they might complain about other serious issues in their household bills, etc.

Currently, betting duty revenue with an additional subsidy goes to the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund. This fund distributes money to Horse Racing Ireland and Bord na gCon to develop the horse and greyhound industries in Ireland. This includes funding racecourse development, distribution of prize money, and regulating and promoting the industries. In most countries, income from the betting sector is used in some way to fund the horse and greyhound industries. However, over recent years the revenue from betting duty on off-course betting has declined as online betting increased and the economic situation worsened. This has meant that the additional subsidy from other resources to the horse and greyhound sector has increased while the overall level of funding has declined. We have to react to changing economic circumstances.

I welcome the legislation. It is very important to have regulation. It is also important to have common sense in all legislation because a Bill such as the Betting (Amendment) Bill 2013 deals not only with people having a nice leisure activity but also with potential to help the economy, when one considers the number of people directly employed in all of these industries. We must find new and modern ways to develop jobs without taking some of the more conservative approaches to betting. I welcome the legislation. It is sensible and I will support it.

I thank very sincerely Deputy Finian McGrath, Deputy Maureen Sullivan and the Technical Group for allowing me some of their speaking time.

I am grateful for that. I am glad to support the Betting (Amendment) Bill 2013. I thank the Minister for Finance very sincerely for bringing it before the House. I mean that. Deputy Finian McGrath is 100% right, nobody wants a nanny state. I know the Minister does not. Nobody wants to stop people enjoying themselves. I know the Minister does not. Nobody wants to hinder people's practices. When we were youngsters there was a local bookie in our community. I would like to put his name on the record of the Dáil. My friend, Mr Timmy O'Leary, a respectable local bookie in Main Street, Kenmare, County Kerry, was our only bookie. The Minister talks about regulation. Timmy O'Leary was mister regulation himself. If somebody came to him who was intoxicated or should not have been placing a bet, or wanted to place a bet over and above the odds they should place, he had the self-regulation and self-control to refuse to accept it if he thought it was wrong or not appropriate because he knew what people were capable of paying. Unfortunately, the way the world has evolved, that type of self-regulation is becoming a thing of the past. I am very glad he is still in business and I hope he will be in business for a long time to come. He was what I would call one of the old regime of bookies who ensured that, while they had to make a living, being sole traders, they were in control of their own affairs and had a respectable name. They ensured that only appropriate activities took place. They would not allow a person who might have youngsters at home who were hungry to bet in their shops. They would never tolerate that.

The new licensing system for remote operators will serve the important public interest in preventing crime and protecting consumers against fraud and will ensure all businesses offering betting services from Ireland and to persons in Ireland are regulated appropriately. This Bill replaces the Betting Act 1931, and surely be to God it is good that there is a Minister replacing an Act from 1931 with one that is more appropriate to handling what we deal with today. I am no spoilsport, as the Minister knows, but the idea of somebody having an iPhone in one hand and perhaps a credit card in the other and fiddling with buttons and exchanging large sums of money, perhaps in bets, is not my idea of betting. I have to declare I do not bet at all. I am not a good man for that type of business. I would not keep the bookies going.

There has to be regulation. If we ever want to see what we should be doing, we should look at what has happened in other places before now, for example, how the betting industry in England has changed with the dreaded machines in bookies’ shops. They are like a massive cash cow. If one studies the statistics, as I have, the amount of money bet on those machines is frightening. Even though they pay out a larger sum than the normal machines, the amount of money they take in is so vast, they can afford to give away an awful lot of money. We have to be very careful that the tax is taken. The Minister will seldom hear me say that I like to see tax taken on anything but he has to curb rogue traders and ensure online bookies and exchanges are taxed appropriately. It should not be the case that people, whoever they are, could make money and not pay tax. That is not the way of the world. The Minister is to be thanked for coming to the House with this Betting (Amendment) Bill 2013. Of course, there will be bits teased out on later Stages. I have read through the Bill and there are things with which I have small issues, but broadly speaking the Minister is doing the right thing. He deserves to be commended on that.

A myriad problems are coming down the road. When people are unemployed and have time on their hands, and if they have addictive personalities, they will go to the bookie or the pub or smoke cigarettes. We will have our differences on the plain packaging of cigarettes. That is wrong. I have my own reasons for thinking so, as one who has been a cigarette trader for more than 25 years. It will only lead to the further sale of illegal cigarettes. It will not help the situation one bit but will cause a lot of job losses in stores that sell cigarettes because people will buy them from illegal traders.

The Deputy should stick to Betting (Amendment) Bill.

I strayed on to addiction so I am going from one addiction to another. I think I can do that.

Broadly speaking, this Bill is welcome. I would have preferred if the modern world of betting had not come upon us in the way that it has over the past four years since the introduction of the iPhone. There is more technology in the iPhone than there was in the first craft that took men to the moon. That is a fact. That is what the Minister for Finance is up against. There has to be regulation. There has to be control. If money is being exchanged and bets are being placed with whatever type of remote operator, there has to be a tax take. Whatever money will accrue from it and whatever regulation has to be put in place to ensure it will happen must be put in place and the Minister will certainly have my support in doing so.

Again, when I go back to reminiscing about the old system of bookies and bookmakers, they were a great group of people. The bookies who went to race meetings were highly respectable, honourable people, whose handshake and word was their bond. Like Deputy Finian McGrath, I would not want to stop anybody having fun and enjoying themselves. In Killarney, Tralee and Listowel, we have great race meetings every year which are a massive passive contributor to the finances of our country. It is a great sport and a massive industry. What the Minister is doing today, in my view, will neither hurt nor hinder that. All he is doing is trying to bring in regulation where regulation is required, bring in control where control is required and take a tax where a tax take is due. There is nothing wrong with that.

I wish the Minister and all Members every good luck and health and happiness in 2014.

I say "Well done" to the Minister for introducing this Bill. As Deputy Finian McGrath pointed out, it is a pity he did not go the full distance and also bring in the gambling control Bill, which is the behavioural dimension to the regulation side of things. We have heard in the debate from Deputy Healy-Rae how the apps that come on iPhones and other types of technology that people carry make betting so instantly and easily available and accessible. There is no doubt it is an increasingly addictive behaviour. It has been shown scientifically and psychologically that this is a fact. If one combines the ease of accessibility of this particular pastime with the advertising persuasiveness and the glamorising of that activity, it is a very heady cocktail, and one that leads to a lot of unnecessary and avoidable misery for many families.

I want to put on the record that, in my constituency about a year ago, the Paddy Power organisation opened its new headquarter offices at Power Tower in Clonskeagh. I had to decline the invitation to be present at the opening of that premises by the Taoiseach because, in my heart and in my head, I knew that while it is persuasive to say that over the next two years there will be 500 jobs for graduates in mathematics, risk management and actuarial-type activity, the bottom line is that for those 500 jobs, there will be 5,000 families who will be brought to greater pain and financial difficulties through this activity.

It is right that there should be taxes on this. Deputy Finian McGrath said he has a nice, regular and moderate approach to the punting and betting he carries out, and I have no problem with that. However, there should be a tax on that activity at a level that is prohibitive. It is very easy to do this in the area of cigarette smoking, which is harmful, and cigarette selling, which is indirectly harmful. While betting can be enjoyed in moderation, all the evidence is that it becomes increasingly addictive and ingrained in the behaviour of people, particularly with online betting. The companies that organise these activities are highly sophisticated and run by highly qualified people with professional qualifications. It is taking candy off a kid - there is no doubt about it.

I am sure the Minister remembers the Kilmartin betting chain. Mr. P.J. Kilmartin, when he was aged 12, used to run for the patients in St. Vincent's Hospital on St. Stephen's Green up to Joe Byrne's bookie's with their bets. He noticed, at that young age, that he brought more money to Joe Byrne's than he took back. That is how he got involved in betting. That was very simple and straightforward, unsophisticated marketing of that activity.

We have to be honest about this. We have to bring it forward rather than kick it out. The vested interests will be persuasive. They will try to bend the Minister's elbow and try to frame the validation of their activities with all sorts of issues, such as that it supports horse racing and horse breeding. I remember, as a visitor to the Visitors Gallery in Dáil Éireann some years ago, listening to a speech by a socialist Deputy on the Bord na gCon legislation pointing out that the problem facing Irish society was not one that needed horses to be fitter and better for racing, but that needed children to have more financial support through the GAA clubs and other clubs for their activities to prevent obesity and ill health. That is correct.

We should be thinking in fundamental directions for this society to make it healthier and fairer and to distribute income. There is no doubt that those at the top are increasing the concentration of their wealth and, therefore, their power, and, therefore, their influence in society. Those who are less fortunate have become more burdened by indirect taxes and stealth taxes. I take the opportunity to remind the Minister that throughout my period before I earned my exit from Fine Gael, involuntarily, I used to point out that those on higher incomes should pay higher taxes and that corporates should pay taxes, as they will bear them. I hope the Taoiseach has read the book I gave him before Christmas, in which Joseph Stiglitz points this out with evidence and facts. It is not opinion. It is shown that economies that are more distributive will actually grow quicker and better economically as well as socially. That is a fact and one that should be taken on board. I implore the Minister, seriously, to take this on board.

Deputies Noel Harrington and James Bannon may share time. I call Deputy Harrington.

I welcome the Bill and welcome the opportunity to contribute to the discussion. My first point is that the betting and gaming industry is big business, and one that has changed fundamentally. To give an example, the small town in which I live in west Cork had no bookie's shop for some 80 years. In the last decade, a bookie's shop opened and created two jobs, and many things changed fundamentally. The vocabulary of some of our younger people completely changed. At one time, when a "yankee" was discussed, it was a long-lost cousin come back from Boston or New York. It is now something entirely different, and it is discussed with a confidence and a knowledge that would astound people my age and older who, quite frankly, have not a clue what people are talking about in terms of the dialogue surrounding gambling. When it comes into the lexicon and confronts people, it changes their attitudes and is very pervasive and addictive.

The idea that a duty should be paid on gambling is a very important one. However, if it is going to be levied on the off-course bookie shops, naturally, it is only fair that the playing field would be levelled and that some effort would be made to impose the same conditions on the online companies which are set up outside the State to allow them to carry on without being chased down for the duty that is quite reasonably levied on other bookies' shops.

This is where the difficulty in the proposed legislation lies. It is right and correct to propose it but it will be very difficult to enforce it. I note that in much of the discussion around the legislation that enforcement will arise in court appearances and convictions in absentia but also in the restriction of financial or other services to companies that do not obtain licences. I do not know how far you can bring that. Do you have to go to other jurisdictions to enforce that type of punishment or measure against a company that is not in this State? It will be very difficult. I believe the existing companies - those that are legitimately set up in this country - will be watching how we propose to enforce the new legislation.

One cannot talk about this Bill without talking about the gambling control Bill in respect of how the nature of the business and not just the duties will be discussed. We need a fundamental debate about the betting industry. It is often mentioned how the industry funds the horse and greyhound racing industries and rightly so because they are huge industries which between them employ almost 30,000 people in this country and have an economic turnover somewhere just south of €2 billion per annum. To ignore that would be reckless and they are entitled to be supported. The anomaly here is that when somebody goes to a bookie's shop or places bets online using their smartphone, they place bets on a wide range of activities and sports which do not get the same attention. The model that is being looked at where the duty comes into the Exchequer is too closely linked in commentary to the horse and greyhound racing industries. I firmly believe those industries are entitled to the support they get from the Exchequer but the commentary links them too closely to the betting duty. Other activities should be looked at for supports and they do get support through sports capital funds. I notice that more and more betting is done on politics. Perhaps we should all be looking for a slice of the action and get some extra support from the betting duty. Of course, that is being a bit facetious but it highlights the old story about somebody betting on two flies up against the wall. If the technology is there that would almost allow anybody anywhere to bet on anything at any time in any part of the world, it is absolutely extraordinary and a challenge the agencies will need to address. In respect of the gambling industry, it may come to pass that some independent regulator may have to be set up - perhaps not at this stage. The rate and growth within the betting industry through technology is significant, the technology is changing all the time, it is very hard to keep ahead of it and there may come a time when this has to happen.

We see it every day, not just in bookie's shops. Turn on the television or the radio and you will be invited by the presenter to make a phone call and answer what is a very easy question to draw in as many people as possible at €1.50 per minute to challenge for a prize or gift whose value we do not know. It might be 1%, 10% or 50% of the income generated by the telephone calls they have solicited. That is gambling - there is no other word for it - but we do not know how much money is being generated by the people in their homes who pick up the phone and dial their premium rate numbers to take part in these competitions for a bit of a punt that they will enjoy. Is the State entitled to a duty or tax on that sort of activity?

The Minister may be aware of this. Everyone of us has had a history of this where people present themselves to banks for mortgages or loans and have an online betting account in their statement. That is the end of that. The bank manager will look at that and say "well, okay, here we go." They will be very careful about giving out any finance to this person. More advice should be given to people on how they set up online gambling accounts. People do not realise that there are hidden consequences. Obviously, that may be part of the Gambling Control Bill and not part of this Bill.

Deputy Healy-Rae mentioned the machines in bookie's shops and pubs. This is probably part of the Gambling Control Bill but it is very important that there are some curbs because they are mushrooming around the country and are in places where people are most vulnerable. After you have had a few drinks, you are more inclined to start throwing money into a machine than you would normally be. We must be very careful about where these machines are. I am not saying they should be banned but they should be licensed and regulated in the right place. That is what this comes down to. It is about proper licensing and regulation irrespective of whether it is a bookie's shop, an operator of poker machines, a betting exchange or a national or international online company. I welcome the Betting (Amendment) Bill because it makes a genuine effort to level the playing field and generate extra tax income, which is always welcome and which will hopefully support further our horse and greyhound racing industries but also go further and support the other activities the betting industry feeds from.

I compliment the Minister for bringing this legislation before the House, which is designed to ensure fair and equal treatment of all bookmakers and the betting exchanges offering services in almost every large and small town in Ireland. This legislation will also include bookmakers operating at point to point meetings and local and national racecourses throughout Ireland, including greyhound tracks. The point to points have already kicked off and indeed will run through the remainder of the winter and spring seasons. The Betting (Amendment) Bill 2013 introduces a new licensing system. Under the Finance Act 2011, betting duty was extended to online and off-shore telephone betting. Before this extension takes place, a new licensing regime for online betting needs to be put in place. This new system will create two new licences - the first being a remote bookmaker's licence for those offering normal bookmaking services by remote means and the second is a remote betting intermediaries' licence for those offering betting exchange services that allow individuals to bet against each other with no risk to the intermediary.

This Bill will ensure that the taking of bets from Irish people by remote means will be an offence unless the betting agency has a remote bookmaker's licence or a remote betting intermediary's licence.

Many Irish bookmakers have set up overseas websites to allow Irish residents to gamble online. As these websites are outside our jurisdiction, the companies do not pay the 1% betting tax. This alarms us all. Many commentators, including Horse Racing Ireland, blame online betting for the fall in betting in bookmakers from €5.4 billion in 2006 to €3.7 billion in 2008 and €2.7 billion in 2011. These online operations are offshore and do not pay betting tax or other taxes, such as corporation tax, on their Irish profits.

I commend the landowners, particularly in the midlands, who give of their land so generously for field events, such as the point-to-point races I mentioned. Will the Minister consider the possibility of giving some sort of an allowance towards insurance for such events at some future date, as the cost of insurance is killing them off?

This Bill shows the Government's continued work in keeping a well regulated and up-to-date betting industry. Later this year, the gambling control Bill 2013 will be before the House. As mentioned by others, that Bill will modernise and reform gambling laws and regulate Internet gambling, which is basically unregulated in Ireland.

The Betting Act 1931 is the main legislation that regulates betting in Ireland, whereas the Finance Acts deal with the imposition and collection of betting duty rather that the regulation of betting. The Horse and Greyhound Racing Act 2001 removed the sections of the 1931 Act that made betting with individuals outside Ireland an offence. This effectively legalised Internet and telephone betting as long as a bookmaker operated offshore. This form of betting is not liable to betting duty. Remote betting organisations do not need certificates of personal fitness or bookmaking licences to offer Irish residents bookmaking services over the telephone or Internet. Therefore, remote betting is effectively unlicensed, unregulated and untaxed in Ireland. When this Bill and the gambling control Bill come into effect, remote betting will be brought under a levy and regulation remit.

The new licensing system for remote operators will serve the important public interest in preventing crime and protecting consumers against fraud and will ensure that all businesses offering betting services from Ireland or to persons in Ireland are regulated appropriately. Once the Bill is enacted, any bookmaker offering bets to punters within the State must be licensed to do so and must have paid the appropriate licence fee. Any such bets taken will be subject to betting duty.

The Bill will provide for the issuing of certificates of personal fitness by a Garda superintendent or the Minister for Justice and Equality as appropriate and updates the 1931 Act around the issue of licensing by the Revenue Commissioners. It also allows a traditional bookmaker to take bets by remote means up to a value of €250,000 or 10% of total turnover, whichever is lower. The enforcement of the Bill will be critical. If we fail to levy the new duty on overseas operators, it could give them a competitive advantage. It is important for current bookmakers that we create a level playing field where they are not disadvantaged by competition from online bookmakers.

I do not doubt that the Minister will address a further issue, that being, the betting industry's contribution to Ireland, which has been good for many years. In France, 9.6% of betting turnover is returned to racing, approximately 54% or 55% of training expenses are covered by prize moneys won and €35 million in premiums are distributed to the owners of horses bred in France. In France, all prize moneys have consistently increased during the past 14 years. In comparison, only 1.6% of betting turnover is returned to racing in Ireland and only 25% of expenses are covered by prize moneys won. Furthermore, prize moneys have decreased from €60 million in 2008 to €45 million in 2012, a 25% fall. This is worrying, as a similar decrease in prize moneys contributed to the rapid collapse of the Italian thoroughbred industry in 2008. Compared with the UK, Ireland has 25% less net prize money per individual runner and 14.2% less net prize money per horse in training. The sector also receives less economic support per job - €4,096 per job versus €5,051 in the UK or €14,914 in France.

Deputy Finian McGrath addressed the greyhound industry and its benefits to the economy. The betting industry benefits from the support of a large segment of the public, including repeat visitors. Last year, for example, more than 3 million people attended football matches, be they Gaelic, soccer or rugby, and nearly 1.5 million people attended race meetings or point-to-points. These events are a unique blend of sport, hospitality and betting excitement and have been a part of Irish culture for hundreds of years. Horseracing is a source of national pride, as Ireland is globally recognised for its excellence in breeding and training, with Irish horses and jockeys constantly ranked among the best in the world.

A recent Ipsos MRBI survey showed that 80% of people felt strongly that horseracing played an important role in Irish heritage. Horseracing ranks as second only to rugby as the sport that provides Ireland with the most international prestige. This should always be remembered.

I call Deputy Browne, who has just a short time before 7.30 p.m.

How long do I have?

One and a half minutes.

It is probably long enough. I welcome the Bill before the House. Obviously, Fianna Fáil supports the extension of the betting duty to online bets. Coming from a county like Wexford, one must speak about the horse and greyhound industries. We have some great names involved in training, for example, Jim Bolger, Aidan O'Brien, Paul Nolan and Colm Murphy in terms of horses as well as the greyhound track in Enniscorthy, which provides a valuable outlet for the greyhound industry in the south east.

Betting shops have changed dramatically since I first started backing the odd horse or dog, which was neither today nor yesterday. Small towns usually had private bookmakers. Now, we have Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, Boylesports and all the major conglomerates dealing exclusively in the betting industry.

Debate adjourned.