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.