BETTING BILL, 1926—THIRD STAGE.
Question—"That Sections 1 and 2 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
(1) Any person (other than a body corporate or an unincorporated body of persons) desiring to obtain a bookmaker's licence may apply in the prescribed manner to the superintendent of the Gárda Síochána of the district in which he has or proposes to have an office registered under this Act, or, if he has not and does not propose to have any such office, to the superintendent of the Gárda Síochána for the district in which he ordinarily resides for a certificate (in this Act referred to as a certificate of personal fitness) that he is a fit and proper person to have a bookmaker's licence.
(2) A superintendent of the Gárda Síochána to whom an application for a certificate of personal fitness is duly made under this section shall, within fourteen days after the receipt of such application, do one or other as he in his discretion shall think proper of the following things, that is to say, either give to the applicant a certificate in the prescribed form that he is a fit and proper person to have a bookmaker's licence or on any one or more of the grounds hereinafter authorised refuse to give such certificate.
Section 3, sub-section (1). To add at the end of the sub-section the words "Such application must be signed by four Peace Commissioners for the district in which the application is made and an advertisement shall be inserted by the applicant in at least two newspapers circulating in the district of his intention to apply for such bookmaker's licence not less than a fortnight nor more than a month before the date of the making of the application."
I have a number of amendments down to-day the majority of which are consequential on the first. I am in no way opposed to the Bill. I think it is a Bill for which the Minister for Finance deserves a lot of credit, and he certainly is very courageous to tackle as thorny a subject as this. We know that years ago it took nearly two years to get a Betting Bill passed in the British House of Commons. That was not a Bill regulating the future of betting but prescribing the total suppression of betting in houses then known as "illicit houses." Our Minister starts from another end and proposes through this Bill to regulate, legalise and generally control the future of betting away from the racecourses in the Free State. The only trouble I see about the matter is the ease with which the applicant could, under the Bill, get a licence, and the amount of power which this Bill would give to a superintendent of the Guards. I should like to point out what happened in somewhat similar conditions in another country. Some 20 years ago I used to train for the late Mr. Croker. I paid a visit with him to New York. At the time Tammany was in power and Tammany in power in New York meant, in the slang of America, "a wide open town," wide open in the sense that gambling of every kind was free to everybody provided they fixed the matter up with the police. The captains and the higher superintendents of the police were the people who fixed the rate of the tax and who gave the permission for those gambling "joints" to be carried on. The result was that in a very short time "grafter" and "policeman" were synonymous terms. Probably from the amount of odium which had arisen at the time, and other reasons, Governor Hughes, who was the Republican Governor of the time, signed a Bill that betting of any kind whatever was illegal. The result was that racecourses were all shut down, breeding studs were broken up and the rich Americans who wanted to race came to Paris.
My amendment proposes in a slightly more elaborate way the granting of a licence to bookmakers and the manner in which the houses licensed will be conducted. I think for the time the Seanad has been in operation on many occasions we have heard various Ministers come here and pay a tribute to the democracy of this country and declare that they were its servants. In future the democracy should be in some part masters, but as far as betting and book-making houses are concerned, it seems to me that the superintendent of the police will be the autocrat. The Minister should also consider for his own sake and for the sake of people in the various cities who may not approve of indiscriminate licensing, the multiplication of betting houses, and the tremendous increase which I am sure will take place in the vicious kind of betting that is of no use to the agricultural interest, which will not help us in the slightest in creating foreign trade, and which is purely a vice. It will be popular with a certain type of newspaper which goes in for competitions, which gives 50 per cent. of its space every day to racing, particularly in England, and which does everything it can to educate the public in racing, tipping and the various ways in which they can acquire what is described in the editorial columns as a most vicious and dangerous business. That is the reason of the amendment which I hope the Minister will see his way to accept, and which I hope the House will insist on.
I think Senator Parkinson is quite correct in saying that this amendment may be taken as a test of practically all the amendments he has down. His view of how this matter should be dealt with is very different from the view which has been taken by the Government. When we decided on having a tax on betting we realised that if we taxed the bookmaker who carried on legally and made no further change that we were going to increase if anything, the great amount of illegal betting that goes on. If we had not made some arrangement whereby cash betting would be legalised the position would be that perhaps hundreds of thousands of bookmakers all over the country could carry on illegally and escape the tax, but those who did legal business would have to pay tax, with the result that ordinary betting people would have been driven more and more to do business with the illegal bookmaker.
That brought us clearly to the position that we ought, if there was no good argument against it, to legalise and regulate cash betting. There were other reasons which made us decide that cash betting ought to be legalised and regulated. The first was that it was widespread and the law against it simply could not be enforced in view of the state of public opinion. We find that occasional raids take place and a bookmaker who is carrying on illegal betting is occasionally fined a certain sum, but the number is not diminished. People are in no way discouraged from resorting to these particular traders, and it seemed to us to be highly undesirable that a law which could not be enforced should continue to remain unchanged. It seems to us to be bad for public opinion, bad for the police, and bad for everybody to continue in operation a law which is simply laughed at, and that is the position in regard to the law against cash betting. Cash betting, in itself, is no crime. It is only a vice where it is carried on to an undue extent, but I think no reasonable person will say that cash betting is in itself a vice or is in itself wrong, or something that should not be tolerated in any particular. I think that is an extreme view, and a view that very few people will have. Our view is that cash betting is really no worse than the type of betting which is legalised. We have a great bookmaking organisation which constitutes a great subterranean network, and when we came to legalise it, our view was that we ought to try to bring that into the light.
There were people who said that we ought to have a licence of £200 on all bookmakers. We had various reasons against that. One of them was that it would not cause people who had been carrying on illegally to register. Our view was that we ought to offer every inducement to people who have been carrying on bookmaking secretly, to register and to submit to such regulations as may be imposed from time to time. We do not want to make it difficult because, as I said, we want those who have been in the business to register their names and to be subject to supervision. There is also another reason why we do not want to make licensing, not so much of bookmakers as of premises—and I think I might deal with premises even on this amendment— difficult because we do not want to create a property in any betting licence. One of the great difficulties in carrying out any reforms in regard to the liquor trade is that there is a property in the licence. You cannot extinguish the licences because people have bought them. People are paid a considerably enhanced sum for premises which were licensed because they were licensed. If we once got the position where a betting licence constituted a saleable interest, constituted something for which people had actually paid money, the difficulties in regulating them, in diminishing the numbers, and in dealing with them in any way that might be necessary, would be greatly increased. Our view is that anybody carrying on bookmaking should be allowed to carry it on subject to paying a licence just as the people who are carrying on licensed business that is legal.
In regard to premises, we believe that premises which are suitable and which are not likely, because of their location, to lead to great irregularities, ought to be licensed. If too many premises are licensed, the matter can be dealt with when the whole business has been taken hold of. It can be dealt with by increasing the licence fees from £20 to £50, or even to £100 if that were necessary. If the number became so great, we could deal with it in that way and we feel that the most satisfactory way to deal with it. If once we take up the position of restricting the number of licences and making it difficult to get a licence, then premises which have been licensed will get an enhanced sale value. People will pay a double price for a house because it is licensed. Then we would be in the position that we would be no longer free to deal in any manner that the public interest may determine, with those premises without being stuck for compensation. I think if we adopted Senator Parkinson's amendment we would be really creating a great vested interest in a property, which would make the whole thing very difficult to deal with. I think it would be a most undesirable thing. As a matter of fact it would not greatly reduce the numbers because the pressure that would be applied by people who were late in applying for a licence—and these people would have as good a claim as those who had already got it—would be irresistible. It would here and there create a very definitely increased value on property which had got a licence and therefore the difficulty in dealing with the business would at once become very great.
We propose that the people who have been carrying on this business illegally shall be able, subject to regulations, to carry it on legally by paying a certain licence fee. If new people rush into the business, if the number of houses becomes very great, we can, in next year's Budget, increase the fee from £20 to £50 or to £100 and reduce the number by the pressure of taxation. I am not sure that there will be any great increase in numbers. The number of those engaged in book-making at present is very great indeed, according to all the indications and to all the information we have been able to get. They carry it on as a part-time occupation, in conjunction with a tobacconist's shop, or some other business. In the future, anybody who wants to carry on book-making will have to carry it on separately. If we license freely all who want to carry on book-making, and charge them this fee, we believe we will get the beginnings of a public opinion that will assist us in some active way in dealing with those who carry on illegally, who are not registered. A man who is registered and who pays his own licence fee and a licence fee for his premises, will object to somebody adjacent carrying on without paying this imposition. On the other hand, if we make the imposition too high, make it too difficult to get a licence and we reduce these numbers we will have the position that people will be inclined, as they did in the past, to sympathise with and shield a man who cannot get a licence. The first thing is to get rid of the illegal man, to bring what is underground into the light. When that is done, if the numbers are excessive, we can take steps to deal with that. But if we do things which tend to keep it hidden, we will never be able to deal with it satisfactorily.
This is a matter about which I do not understand very much. Senator Parkinson has given us an example of what occurred in New York. Some of us know that his statements are perfectly correct, that under the system that was in force there some years ago, all these "joints," so-called, were under the control of the police, and what Senator Parkinson now wishes to bring about is that under this Bill there should be some control in addition to that of the Civic Guard. Under Section 3, the only person who can say whether a man is a proper person to have a bookmaker's licence is a superintendent of the Gárda Síochána. As I understand the amendment, it is to aid the Civic Guard and to ensure that any person applying for a licence shall be more or less guaranteed by a right and proper person. From what the Minister has said, it seems to me that he is anxious for the development of bookmaking and betting. As far as I know, I do not think that that is the object of the Government, who wish to restrict bookmaking and betting within reasonable limits, and I cannot see that there is any objection to having these restrictions dealt with to a certain extent by people other than the Civic Guards.
Senator Parkinson's remarks about New York seemed to me to be so irrelevant that I did not deal with them. The position is this, that if the Civic Guard cannot object on certain grounds, set out in Paragraph 4, to any person having a licence, that person gets a licence. The present position is that everybody can book-make, and everybody who wants to does so. Everyone can start legal, or credit, bookmaking. We propose that unless the Civic Guard superintendent objects, a person gets a licence. If there is an objection, there is an appeal to the District Justice. But there is no such thing as the police controlling it; there is no such thing as temptation for the police to do any of the things that are done by the police in America. The superintendent of the Guard gives a recommendation. In the ordinary way, if the application comes from any respectable person, a certificate will be granted. If the superintendent sees any reason to object to it he does so on one of the grounds set forth in Section 4. Thereupon the person may appeal to the District Justice and the District Justice may uphold the decision of the superintendent or he may reverse it. But there is a check on people of an unsatisfactory character, people who are plainly unfitted for getting a licence. What we want to do is to allow any respectable person who wants a licence to get it. We want, in the first instance, to bring this thing into the open.
As a matter of personal explanation, I do not want to say too much about the position of the Civic Guard, but I would like to say this, that everybody, except the Minister and the Government, who knows anything about the manner in which illegal betting is carried on, and that there are no prosecutions, are quite well aware of the blackmail that the bookmakers are now paying.
That seems to me to be as irrelevant as most of Senator Parkinson's remarks.
I support the amendment. If, in the way it would be carried out, it was likely to decrease the number of these betting houses, it would certainly be to the advantage of the community.
Am I right in saying, Senator Parkinson, that you do not interfere with the provisions of Section 3, save in so far as you add your proviso as an extra precaution?
That is all it is meant for.
You do not interfere with the Government's scheme?
You require as an additional condition for getting a licence, that the applicant should have his application signed by four Peace Commissioners in his neighbourhood, and that he should publish an advertisement in his neighbourhood. That is the only change you propose to make?
I support the amendment. After all, the Gárda Síochána will have only five reasons for refusing a licence. This is a case of legalising betting, and if a man proposes to bet he should be a man of standing, or at least should have sufficient money to pay his debts. There is nothing at all in (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e), as far as I can see, which would make it incumbent on the Gárda Síochána to see that a man who has not a shilling should not open a premises. I think it would be disastrous to have vested interests accruing from these licences. When the State interferes at all it ought at least to make sure that the man with whom you bet is a man from whom you may reasonably expect payment. That is not one of the reasons for objecting to the issuing of a licence. If the amendment were accepted there would be four Peace Commissioners, men selected by the Government for their capacity, who would have, so to speak, to give theirimpri-matur as to the character and fitness of the man who was to be given a licence. I think that these gentlemen would have power to consider fitness from the financial standpoint, and I think that they would see that a man who had not money to pay would not be licensed.
I also wish to support the amendment. I think this Bill, as a whole, shows what everyone ought to know, the difficulty of interfering in the affairs of people. This Government is very fond of interfering in everybody's business and putting its finger in every pie. The Minister has pointed out that there is a great danger that certain houses may get a right that they cannot be deprived of afterwards without being paid. I know that these betting transactions are too difficult to be understood by anybody not mixed up in such matters. In my unregenerate days I betted a certain amount and had some horses which, no doubt, was very unwise. I do not pretend to understand anything about horses or about horse-racing compared with Senator Parkinson. I do not know whom the Minister consulted when he dipped into this business. Has he any racing men on his staff who advised him, or any bookmakers, because these are people who know the ins and outs of the matter? I am not insinuating he has, but I say it is very difficult to know about these matters.
Let us consider what will happen when a licensed betting house is set up. We will have a house, in a village or a small town, which has permission to bet, labelled in large letters as a betting house. At present, no doubt, there is a great deal too much betting, but, at any rate, a great many people are not brought intimately into connection with it. But, when everyone sees a betting house, with all sorts of attractions, with a cinema, and so on, if not in the house, then, perhaps, next door and a queue of people waiting to make their bets, the attraction of betting will spread to everyone in the country. I think this whole thing is very inadvisable from beginning to end. If it must be sanctioned I would like to have it controlled by responsible people; it should not be a matter left entirely to the Gárdaí, who are only human, like everybody. I have no reason for saying a single word about the Gárdaí. Senator Parkinson's statement may be true or not true, but the Minister says it has nothing to do with the matter. Of course it has. I do not suggest that these things go on now, but I suggest that they might go on in the future. I, for one, will support the amendment.
I think, in a modified form, this amendment should commend itself to the Committee. As the Bill stands, at present, the whole responsibility is placed upon the superintendents of the Gárdaí. They are all young men—mostly inexperienced and certainly none of them has any judicial experience or capacity. It is a big responsibility to place upon them, either to grant or refuse bookmakers' licences. It leaves the matter open also to blackmail to which Senator Parkinson referred. I do not know to what extent that goes on. I presume there is some ground for the insinuation. I think it better that the position of the Civic Guard, in these matters, should be that of offering opposition to the granting of licences to unsuitable applicants, or, on the other hand, making inquiries with a view to notifying whether there were any grounds for opposing an application and leaving it to the District Justice, who is a judicial functionary, to say whether the person applying for the licence should get it or not.
I think the proposal that four Peace Commissioners should sign the application is an unreasonable one. These Peace Commissioners are not very well known because they do not adjudicate on the Bench. If I, personally, were to look for a bookmaker's licence I do not know any four Peace Commissioners that I would ask to sign my application, and I do not think any four Peace Commissioners know me. That I regard as an unnecessary provision in the amendment, but I think it is desirable, once we legalise betting, that we should go beyond the Gárdaí superintendents. The Bill does not provide for any appeal to the District Justice except where the superintendent of the Civic Guard turns down the application, but when it comes before the District Justice nobody is allowed to oppose it except the Gárdaí or the Revenue Commissioners. There is very little protection there for public morality except to the extent that it is protected by the police authorities. I think this is a necessary preventive of what may turn out to be a very serious abuse.
It is rather hard to make up one's mind as to how to vote upon this amendment. I listened to the Minister and, as I take it, his objection to this amendment is that it will give a vested interest in premises if licensed under the arrangement which Senator Parkinson's amendment would give. Following that up, it means that if you inquire into a man's character very particularly and grant him a licence, you are giving him a vested interest which you would not if you made only a few inquiries into his character. I think that is a fair way of putting the case.
I was dealing with the whole body of the amendments which are down in the name of Senator Parkinson, as I believe they all hang together. Perhaps I was wrong in doing that.
I have not studied them as a whole, and I have tried to deal entirely with this one amendment, and in deciding how to vote upon that I cannot see how anything in this amendment gives a vested interest at all. Vested interests in public houses and places of that sort depend upon totally different things. I think Senator O'Farrell is right about the number of Commissioners signing an application. Four Peace Commissioners might be very hard to get hold of. I think two Peace Commissioners would be sufficient, and something of that sort seems to me to be called for. The advertisement and the knowledge that a particular man in a district is going to apply for a bookmaker's licence would show whether he is a man capable of carrying on these transactions, or whether he is going to "welsh." It is important that the whole racing community should know who are applying for betting licences. I think, therefore, the advertisement proposal is an excellent one. I cannot understand why the Minister should object to this amendment. He seems to think it is better to let Tom, Dick and Harry have a licence in all cases where the superintendent of police thinks it ought to be given. The whole lot of those engaged in the betting business, legal and illegal, large and small, solvent and insolvent, are all to get licences to start with.
I really think that that could hardly be in the interests of the community generally. I would not like to be in the position of the Minister who finds out at the end of six months that the Civic Guard have agreed to the issue of licences to many people who are of an insolvent and untrustworthy nature, and to see a list published in a particular district of men who have been given licences but who are known as men who should not have been given them. I think we should try to eliminate many people who cannot get a good character and whose names should not be published as the holders of betting licences. I think it is a rather difficult position in which to put the local superintendent of the Civic Guard, namely, that when men apply to him the whole responsibility for refusing licences falls upon him. If I were a superintendent of the Civic Guards, that is not a position in which I would like to be placed. In the interests of everybody, I think there should be somebody behind the superintendent to back him up if he wants to refuse a licence at the beginning. I am not now referring to the District Court. I think that the issue of advertisements in regard to those who apply for licences would prove extremely valuable.
In this matter we are dealing with what hitherto has been recognised by some people as an evil, just as drink is regarded by some as an evil but, human nature being as it is, you cannot make people sober or moral by Acts of Parliament. As the Minister has said, Acts of Parliament are intended to suppress practices which are regarded as evils but which, without excessive indulgence, are not evils, and if you suppress them it has been shown that you create worse evils. Let us recognise this thing as it is in relation to human nature. The most we can do is to control and minimise the evil which is inherent in it. That is the attempt here. With regard to the issue of publicans' licences, we find that the community are recognised by legislation to be concerned in the matter, and are entitled to have a voice in it. The result is that if a publican applies for the renewal of his licence, the public are made aware of the fact by means of an advertisement to the effect that, on a certain day in a certain court, the publican will apply for his licence. The police are the principal witnesses on whom the Justice will rely, but, I take it, any member of the public can raise any objection he desires to the granting of such application.
In the same manner, why is not some opportunity given to the public in regard to bookmakers' licences by which they could say that a particular application by a particular applicant should not be granted in a particular neighbourhood, or that the applicant is not a fit and proper person to be given a licence? At the very outset in the Bill you have discretion put in the hands of a superintendent of the Civic Guards. I know that a great many of the police are prone to betting—I do not say it is a vice in their case—and great power is being put into the hands of a superintendent who is really the pivot on which the success of the application depends. He is given initial opportunity and power either to recommend or object to an application. That is great power to put in the hands of one man. It puts a great temptation in his way. There are great financial interests involved in the lucrative trade of betting, and in the light of what we know has happened elsewhere, with that precedent before us of which there is no denial, it is not fair that we should place that great temptation in the way of our young policemen, who are an estimable body, and our superintendents, who are even more estimable. It is not fair to the public that the whole discrimination should be left in the hands of the superintendents. For these reasons, I am strongly of opinion that some greater precaution should be taken to see that those who are granted licences under this Bill are people of undoubted character, and of whom the public will have some guarantee that in their betting transactions with them the contracts entered into will be carried out. On the other hand, I can quite see the Minister's point of view, namely, that if you make the thing too strict you create a greater evil, because you give rise to an amount of illegal betting in the creation of betting shops, as to which the public will have no security that even small bets will be redeemed. I think that the Bill in its present form requires to be tightened up.
When I spoke before, I dealt with the scheme that Senator Parkinson seems to have in mind as shown by the whole set of amendments which he has put down. I did not deal particularly with this amendment because there is no doubt, if it were adopted, the Seanad should, I think, logically go on and adopt the others. I therefore dealt with it generally. As regards this particular amendment, I do not think that there could be any benefit in the suggestion that four Peace Commissioners should sign the licence. At best, it would be an empty form. Everybody knows that four Peace Commissioners could be got to sign, if not in one district, in another. It has to be remembered that a bookmaker's licence will enable him to go anywhere in the Free State and carry on his business. It seems to me that there is nothing in the suggestion that four Peace Commissioners should sign, nor is there any reason for giving public notice in the newspapers, because we are not proposing in any way to guarantee the solvency of anybody. When a man sets up a shop and gets credit, you do not guarantee his solvency.
We do not guarantee his character. In the case of an auctioneer who holds large sums of public money and who has a licence, we do not inquire into his character. We let him pay the licence fee. It was argued by some people that bookmakers should pay a fee and have no more about it, but, where these people have to account to the revenue authorities and have to keep records as directed by them, we do not think it desirable that anybody who paid, say £10, should have a licence. We impose the minimum of supervision. From every point of view I think that is the best way. I do not think that the State should stand as guarantor to the public that any particular bookmaker will pay up. It would be absurd for us to guarantee his solvency. You might as well say that we should guarantee the honesty and solvency of an auctioneer who has to pay his licence fee. It would be asking too much to say that inquiry should be instituted into a man's character, so that the public will be assured that he will fulfil his engagements. The public, will as a matter of fact, find out very quickly if a man is not paying and that, perhaps, would be proper punishment for them for indulging in betting.
There is no comparison between an auctioneer and a bookmaker. In Section 4 of the Bill the Government state that a man's general character and known habits should be taken into consideration. You do not take that into consideration in the case of an auctioneer.
I did not suggest that. In this case you have a man who is going to be responsible for paying the tax to the Government. He will pay five per cent. on all transactions so that you cannot allow everyone to get a licence. An auctioneer has not to pay five per cent. on all transactions. If he had to, we would inquire into his character. When a man is responsible for the keeping of records, as directed by the Revenue Commissioners, and has to pay tax, you must have certain supervision over him. I suggest that that supervision should be the minimum, because, if you are going to prevent people who are reasonably fitted to carry on betting getting licences, you are going to continue the present illegal system. There is no doubt that, if you have a man in a particular town or district who is at present carrying on business as a bookmaker, and who is the sort of person that could be licensed, he ought to be licensed, because, if he is refused a licence it means that he is going to carry on, and that he will have sympathy while carrying on. You would not be able to stop him. Then you will have the position of people who pay the five per cent. and, side by side with them, a considerable number who pay neither tax nor licence. That is a position that is certainly highly undesirable. That seems to me unfair in every respect and I think it would lead to much greater abuses. If Senators think that anything should be added to the grounds of objection set out in Section 4, that is a matter that can be considered. We have three or four grounds of objection set out, but if it is thought that these should be added to, I think in that way we could deal with some of the points that have been raised. It is not by setting up elaborate machinery which, apparently, is to be directed towards making a licence a sort of guarantee of solvency, or something like that, that it can be done. I do not think that should be entertained. As far as this amendment is concerned it could be passed, but, to my mind, it would mean nothing. Certain formalities would be involved. I would not say that I would hold up the Bill on account of them. As to Senator Parkinson's amendments, I have not spoken against any one of them. I would not take the trouble to speak against them as, if passed, they would make the Bill an entirely different one, one that I could not and would not stand over.
There must be some confusion, as I think the Minister said already that he was in favour of the first amendment, and that he thought all the others would follow as a natural consequence. It seems to me that if the Minister gives way on this amendment he necessarily admits the others are more or less consequential.
No, but I said that if the Seanad wanted to be logical it ought to pursue them. It might not choose to be logical, and I cannot help that. I think these amendments would add something that is quite unnecessary, and that would be really useless to the Bill. If this particular amendment was not to be followed by the others it seems to me that the position would be anomalous.
Could the Minister not suggest an easier way for obtaining a licence than being dependent on the Civic Guard? It seems to me that putting that power into the hands of people with little experience of law and with a feeling that they know all about it, puts a greater difficulty in the way of bookmakers than if they had to apply to several Peace Commissioners. Perhaps the Minister would allow an application to be made to one Peace Commissioner or to a Commissioner for Oaths. I quite understand that the Civic Guard are the best fitted to inquire into a man's character, but character does not enter into solvency. It does not seem to me to be necessary to have a man's antecedents inquired into. As the Minister stated that he wishes to facilitate the granting of bookmakers' licences, I suggest some other persons other than four Commissioners should be selected so as to take the onus off the Civic Guard. The position would not be fair to the Civic Guard, and, on the other hand, the bookmaker should have some court of appeal. I think the Minister should consider some other court of appeal than the local policeman.
There is an appeal to the District Justice.
I think that meets Senator Gogarty's point of view. If the local superintendent refuses a licence the applicant can appeal to a District Justice. Consequently, he is not at the mercy of the superintendent, unless you are to assume that the District Justice is going to do something wrong. You can hardly legislate along the lines of distrusting the District Justice. I believe that no person could really be bullied by the superintendent of the Civic Guard—if we were to assume that it could happen—more than once, without the Civic Guard authorities getting to know that there had been blackmail by the superintendent. I think the bookmaker is amply protected.
Would the District Justice have power to override the Civic Guards' decision?
He has no power to override the decision in a case where the superintendent of the Gárdaí gives a certificate.
The superintendent of the Gárdaí is made the absolute master. There is no appeal permitted except where the superintendent refuses the certificate.
That would create disharmony in the case of the Civic Guard superintendent in his relation with the District Justice. It seems to me the onus is too great on the Gárdaí superintendent.
I would like to know from the Minister what was in the minds of the Government when they introduced this Bill? Was it introduced because of the Minister's own well known puritanical ideas?
We cannot have a general disquisition on the principle of the Bill. We are on the Committee Stage now. You will have to cross-examine the Minister with a view to this amendment.
He may possibly give us some information on it. At any rate I would like to know from him how he proposes to collect these licence fees, seeing that betting has been carried to an unlimited extent for a great number of years. I do not know much about it myself, like Senator Colonel Moore. We know that occasionally a bookmaker is brought up and fined and by that means a certain method is adopted by the Government. But we know that a large amount of betting in this city is carried on by street bookmakers. How are you going to get these people to come in and occupy premises and pay a licence fee any more than they have been doing for the past nine or ten years? Again, the mere putting of a bookmaker into premises is not in any way going to improve the morale of betting men or the security as to the bookmaker's financial stability. We know that premises are used at present in Dublin for the purpose of carrying on all sorts of games. A game entitled the game of "House" has been carried on, and to a certain extent that is licensed by the Government inasmuch as the people who carry on this game are brought before the courts and fined a nominal amount. We know also that betting on football and other games is carried on in premises and we know that women and children have a right of entry to these places.
With regard to the statement that these places will be labelled betting houses I want to say that the thing is utterly ridiculous. Just imagine any betting man being foolish enough to advertise the fact. He will call it an ice-cream parlour or picture-house or some nice respectable name like that. People under cover of going in for afternoon tea will be able to go in and bet. Indeed the real motive would be to put a couple of shillings on. There is nothing in the name. He need not broadcast the fact that the house is used for betting purposes only. There are some safeguards in that direction in the Bill. But so far as I can see, the Government in introducing this Bill had no conception of the task that is in front of them in the collection of these licence fees and also of the accuracy of the bookmaker's record when the revenue officers go in there to collect the duty on these bets. These are matters that, in my opinion, the Government have not given sufficient attention to at all. We know that the police are only human and we know that the bookmakers are fairly generous when they want their turn served. Certainly Senator Parkinson's amendment in this respect goes a long way to prevent the abuse that has been existing for a very long time in this city, and I certainly will vote in favour of the amendment.
What I feel about this question is this: there ought to be some reality underlying this certificate. The Bill, as it stands, leaves it entirely in the hands of the superintendent of the Gárda. The superintendent has to certify as to the personal fitness of the applicant; he has to see that the applicant complies with all the qualifications laid down in one of the sections of the Bill. The superintendent of the Gárda may be absolutely a new man in the district and the "bookie" may be, also, an absolutely new man there. Therefore, there is no security that the certificate of the superintendent of the Gárda will have any real foundation. I would vote for Senator Parkinson's amendments if he would alter the number of Peace Commissioners to two, because I do feel that probably four P.C's would be difficult to get in a district. I suggest two P.C.'s instead of four should sign this certificate. I would, besides, have them to be P.C's for the district in which the applicant is himself residing. The applicant may be going to start in a different place from that of his ordinary residence where he is well known. The people who sign the certificate ought to know him; the Gárda superintendent may not know him at all. The only people who are certain of knowing him are the respectable inhabitants represented by the two or the four P.C's in the district in which he lives. I therefore would be happy to vote for this, but I am sure four are too many.
The Minister, as I understood him in one of his statements, said that the question of the man's financial reliability had nothing to do with the character laid down here——
He did not go quite that length. "Save in respect to the tax payable to the Government."
In so far as payment by the individual is concerned, they did not go into that question at all. Suppose a man sets up in a small town and he does not pay what he owes, systematically does not pay, and he moves into another place or goes to a racecourse, is that man to be continued in his licence? In that way financial stability is necessary. It seems to me that the Government has not considered all these intricate points that will arise.
I do not see there is any provision as to the revoking of the licence—I mean no specified reason given. Take the case of a man who, once his licence has been granted to him, may welsh in one district and go into another, and carry on in the same way. There may be something in the Bill to prevent that.
That is after conviction.
I think the Minister has not seriously considered the importance of this matter. The very fact that the Government have granted a licence gives the impression to the public that the bookmaker is solvent, and it would be very unfortunate for the public if he happened to be insolvent. The capacity of a man should be fully inquired into before his application for a licence is granted. The suggestion made by Senator O'Farrell is very important. I would be inclined to go further than the Senator. I would be inclined to insist that in connection with the granting of these licences the public should have every permission to appear in opposition, if they so desire.
As regards betting houses, it is quite possible that they could be used for other purposes. It is possible that an individual who owns one betting house is carrying on a betting house in another district. If his liabilities become too heavy he may clear out of that district. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that the matter of solvency should be taken into account. A great number of young people might have one or two shillings to spare, and they might think it no harm to bet with a certain individual. They consider that as this man has a Government licence, that in itself should be sufficient to make their bets secure. It might turn out that if that individual's liabilities are too heavy, he would clear out of the district. The Minister should safeguard the public in some way. He should see that the man who gets a licence will be trustworthy, and will be a man of good character. The public should have some right to intervene and decide who should get a licence.
There is a general feeling in the Seanad that some such amendment as that proposed by Senator Parkinson should be inserted. I think it would be advisable for the Senator to withdraw this amendment and re-draft it for the Report Stage. In the first place, the mere signing of the application by a Peace Commissioner does not mean anything. You should have the specific assent of a Peace Commissioner. Then, again, it seems to me it is necessary if newspaper advertisements are to be anything more than a farce that they should be inserted before the application is considered. These are verbal matters in a way, but I think they are essential in order to make the amendment effective. I think it would be well to have the amendment re-drafted for Report.
I am quite satisfied, now that we have had this very interesting discussion, and that the Seanad is in a position to understand what the position could eventually be, to withdraw this amendment and bring it forward in such a manner as Senator Douglas and Senator Brown suggest, on the Report Stage. The amendment is put in, not by way of blocking the Minister from getting the Bill through, but merely because those of us who are familiar with betting and bookmakers, and with what happened where licensed houses were used for betting in New York, are anxious to provide for the general protection of the public.
I am not worried on this question of insolvency. I do not care whether the bookmaker bolts or pays. I do feel, however, that his general character should be sound and that he should not be in any sense a white-slave recruiter, thousands of whom will come from Whitechapel and other places whenever they can get a house, under the guise of a betting house, where men, women and children will congregate from nine in the morning until late in the afternoon.
That is provided for in this Bill.
I think it is open to them to come in only as long as the superintendent of the Gárda sees that they conduct themselves; but how will he know? They will not misconduct themselves while he is there. In the circumstances, I am prepared to withdraw the amendment and bring it up in another form on the Report Stage.
The difficulty I see in regard to this matter is that we may have to go through another full discussion on the Report Stage and it will mean another day's business. As far as I can see, the objection mainly urged to the amendment is in regard to requiring four Peace Commissioners. It has been suggested that two would be sufficient. Then Senator Douglas has suggested that they should do something more than sign the application. It occurs to me your amendment would be better if it read "such application must be approved by two Peace Commissioners, whose approval shall be testified by their signature to the application," or some words of that sort.
I suggest that Senator Brown should propose an amendment to this amendment covering that point and mentioning that advertisements should be published before the application is made.
I think that is the intention of your amendment. The amendment touches on the applicant's "intention to apply." Under your amendment as it stands the advertisement is to be put in before the application. The advertisement indicates the intention to apply. I do not think there is any change required there at all. The amendment would be improved if it read "such application must be approved by two Peace Commissioners whose approval shall be testified by their signature to the application," or something of that kind. You can then leave the rest of the amendment as it is. It would be a mistake to postpone the whole thing now and begin it all over again on Report.
The Minister mentioned that there was provision in the Bill to prevent an influx of people from Whitechapel. Is it not understood that these Bills apply only to people in the Saorstát?
The amendment could be made read "such application must be approved by two Peace Commissioners of the district in which the applicant resides." and then the rest could be left as it is.
That will be quite all right.
Do the advertisements in the newspaper mean that the public will have a right to appear in opposition?
The House might put in a provision of that sort.
Otherwise it would be putting the applicant to expense that would not be of any public utility.
The idea of the advertisement is that it will give the people in the district who know something in favour of the applicant or to his prejudice, an opportunity of conveying the information to the police, the Peace Commissioner or the District Justice.
The application will come before the District Justice only if the Civic Guard refuse it.
There is a subsequent amendment by which the Civic Guard is not to be the final authority but will have to bring the application before the District Justice in every case. There is an amendment further on which provides that the application, after it has been approved of by the Peace Commissioner, is to be brought before the District Justice and not determined by the Civic Guard.
In case the superintendent declines to give a certificate, is it to be his duty to appear in court before the District Justice?
That matter will be discussed on a subsequent amendment. It does not touch this particular amendment.
Would it be necessary to insert the words, "must be approved in writing"?
That is what I suggested—signed approval.
I think it would be necessary to insert after the words, "application is made," the words, "in which the applicant resides." Otherwise, the applicant may go away with a certificate that he obtains from the Commissioners and carry on in another district.
That is assuming that he makes the application in the district in which he resides. That, I think, would be imposing a new condition.
But if he goes to another district he could use the certificate there.
But he might be starting a new enterprise. For instance, he might be a young man of 25 or 26 years of age leaving home and starting a new enterprise of that kind in Dublin. He would not be residing in his home district then.
But if he gets a certificate in his home district he can then operate in Dublin.
That is a point which I think should be dealt with in a subsequent amendment. I think we had better leave this amendment as it is. It will now read as follows:—
Section 3 (1). To add the following words at the end of the sub-section: "Such application must be approved by two Peace Commissioners for the district in which the applicant resides, whose approval shall be testified by their signature to the application; and an advertisement shall be inserted by the applicant in at least two newspapers circulating in the district of his intention to apply for such bookmaker's licence not less than a fortnight nor more than a month before the date of the making of the application."
Amendment, as amended, put and agreed to.
I move Amendment 2:—
Section 3, sub-section (2). To delete all from and including the word "do" in line 20 down to and including the word "say" in line 21, and to substitute therefor the words "present such application to the District Justice who shall."
This amendment is consequential on the previous one. It takes the power away from the Superintendent of the Civic Guard, so that the matter must come before the District Justice. I think there is no necessity to go over all the reasons again as to why the Superintendent of the Civic Guard should, be the person to give the licence. I think, and I am sure the Minister in time will see, that this is going to be a very serious business— not the licensing of bookmakers, but the licensing of premises. It is essential that these licensed premises should be conducted in a suitable manner. I am not concerned so much with their suitability as premises, but rather to see that they will be suitably conducted. It is because I am anxious to see that these premises should be conducted in a suitable way that I have put down these amendments at all. The amendments have been put down not in the interests of bookmakers or in the interests of trainers, owners or breeders of horses, but in the public interest only.
I do not know that it is any use for me to go over the same ground again. I think the most satisfactory way is for the Superintendent of the Civic Guard to give a licence to all respectable persons who apply for one. If he is not satisfied, then there can be an appeal to the District Justice. I believe that provides all the safeguards that are necessary, and is by far the most suitable way to arrange it. The licence will be for a period of not more than twelve months, so that the suitability of the person who gets one will come up for review in twelve months' time. I think we are providing a complication of procedure here which, perhaps, so far as it applies to persons licensed, is merely cumbersome and ridiculous. If applied to premises it would change entirely the whole scheme laid down in the Bill, and in fact it does tend to change it considerably as applied to persons.
This is a much more serious amendment than the other. It does really alter the originating authority as regards the premises licensed, and I can see how it comes up against some of the principles of the Bill and against the theory on which the Minister has argued. Senator Douglas has just made a remark to me to the effect that we might see our way to meet the Minister in the first instance. That is what he is asking for. The Minister wants to get this Bill in on certain lines, to begin with. To bring the District Justice in, in the first instance, might, if there were a large number of bookmakers applying, be doing a great deal more than really is needed. Looking a little ahead, say to the end of the year when some experience has been gained in the working of this measure, I think that the public should have some opportunity of lodging objections, and of making use of the knowledge they had gained, and of doing everything that Senator Parkinson is fighting for. I think that when the licence comes up for renewal the public, if they think well of it, should have some opportunity of objecting, and that this question of renewal should not be left entirely in the hands of the Superintendent of the Civic Guard. I do not know how that could be secured, but if it could be I think it would be desirable. I think it would be wise for the House to follow the Minister's lead in this in the first instance, but that as regards future renewals care should be taken to see that the public would have a right, if they so desired, to object to them.
We should be clear about this. Where is there any provision in the Bill for renewal? How long does the certificate last?
The licence is only given for a period not exceeding twelve months. Consequently, at the end of that period a new licence must be applied for, and in that case the same formalities must be complied with as when the licence was originally granted.
But the new licence will be granted by the superintendent just as before.
That is what I understood to be the case. I support what Senator Jameson has said. On the whole, I think it would be wise to stand by the Bill as far as the first application is concerned. But I think that in the case of a second application, which will virtually be a renewal, the public should have an opportunity of appealing to the District Justice. When the application for the renewal is made, I think that public organisations or individual members of the public who feel that the renewal should not take place, should have an opportunity of objecting. I think it would be comparatively easy to provide that, on the second application—for the renewal of the licence—there should be the right of appeal to the District Justice. If that were done, I would prefer not to pass the amendment, but leave the matter as it is in the Bill.
There is one suggestion I have to make. I do not know whether it will meet Senator Jameson's point. It is, that, instead of introducing an amendment such as he suggests, the Seanad should amend the Bill so as to give it a two years' life, so that after two years' experience it will be necessary to bring new legislation before the Oireachtas again. In the light of the experience that would then have been gained, perhaps much wider changes could be made. If that were suggested I would agree to it. I know, of course, that at present everything cannot be foreseen.
I would make an additional suggestion to the Minister on the same lines. The suggestion is this, that the Bill should contain a proviso enabling an appeal from the granting of the certificate as well as the refusal of it. That is to say, to leave the proposal as it is: that the granting of the certificate, in the first instance, should lie with the superintendent of the Civic Guard, but that any member of the public interested should be entitled to appeal from the granting of the certificate in the same way as an appeal is given in the case of refusal. The Bill gives the right of appeal where the certificate has been refused, but it gives no such right of appeal where the certificate has been granted. I think that if the public had the right of appeal conferred on them against the granting of the certificate that would keep everyone safe.
I think there would be great danger in that because there are some men in the business who are very wealthy and they may want to stall off competition. If a poor man applies for a licence, and his general character is quite satisfactory and he gets it, he will not be in as good a position to spend money on legal expenses as a richer man would be who wanted to keep him out of the business. I think it would be a dangerous thing if the suggestion which you, sir, have made were put into effect.
I do not think that there is very much in what the Minister says. It stands to reason that if the Bill is found unsatisfactory it can be be amended. Bills are frequently amended when experience shows that amendment is necessary. We have now a new Land Bill, and the original Land Act was not a temporary measure. I think we should take the matter as it stands.
I do not think Senator's Farren's objection can be found to be a real one. A large section of the community are entitled to object, for example, to the granting of publicans' licences and that right has never been abused.
You must not be reading the papers.
It does seem to be an anomaly that if you give power to the superintendent of police to grant a certificate there should be no appeal but that if he refuses it there should be an appeal.
The idea underlying the Bill is what we might call practically a free granting of licences in the beginning. I urge one reason again in favour of that, and that is that we have a great subterranean organisation in existence and it is most desirable that should be brought to light, that people carrying on the betting business should be registered, and that the houses in which the betting is carried on should be registered. Then we would have information that is not really available to anybody in authority at present. Whatever experience shows to be necessary can be decided on in the way of restrictions.
Having heard the Minister's statement I would be only too pleased to allow him the opportunity of getting all the information that can be got during the year. I am quite satisfied, and I am sure the Minister will agree that I am not trying to be a hindrance but a help. I am quite satisfied to have the issue made during the coming year by the superintendent.
I think the two years suggestion would go a long way towards meeting the difficulty. That would mean in effect that in about 18 months' time a Bill will have to be introduced and it could then be discussed with the knowledge gained during the 18 months.
The Minister said that the acceptance of the amendment logically involves the acceptance of almost all the others. I do not know whether I am illogical, but I certainly would not vote in favour of the present amendment. I think I was quite logical in supporting the first amendment, which in my opinion gives a necessary safeguard to the arrangements that exist in the Bill. The present amendment proposes to change the machinery of the Bill. It prevents the Gárda Síochána from issuing a certificate which they are given power to do in the section as it stands. It is only increasing the difficulties and making further legislation necessary. It takes the applicant to the District Court in the first instance. That, to my mind, would tend to do what the Minister feared would be done if we accepted the first amendment, namely, to create vested interests. In my opinion, the more you complicate the machinery by having recourse to law courts, the greater will be the danger of vested interests being created. What we are now asked to do is to make an applicant go to a District Justice and simply ask him to sign a certificate. There is, apparently, no sort of evidence to come before him except what he requires. I do not think this amendment should be accepted.
Did I understand you to say, Senator Parkinson, that you are satisfied to accept the suggestion of the Minister, that is to say, to limit the duration of the Bill to two years?
What I said was that I was satisfied to withdraw the amendment so far as the District Court is concerned and leave the issue of licences to the superintendent of the Guards.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Will that apply to the rest of your amendments?
It probably will, except one or two.
There is one other the same as the one that has just been passed. The amendment to Section 7, sub-section (1), is similar to the one that has been passed. I take it you will agree to that being altered in the same way so as to make it conform with the one already passed?
Then are you prepared, in view of what the Minister said, to withdraw these other amendments?
They would all go, I think, except number 6. It is similar to the one already passed.
Question—"That Section 3, as amended, stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
A certificate of personal fitness may be refused on any one or more of the following grounds and on no other ground whatsoever, that is to say:—
(a) that at the time of the application for the certificate arrears of any duty for the time being payable on or in respect of bets are due and owing by the applicant;
(b) that the applicant had been previously convicted of a crime or of an offence under this Act or any Act relating to gaming or gaming houses;
(c) that a bookmaker's licence previously held by the applicant had been revoked under this Act;
(d) that a previous refusal by a superintendent of the Gárda Síochána to give a certificate of personal fitness had been confirmed on appeal to the District Court;
(e) that the applicant is by reason of his general character or his known habits not a fit person to hold a bookmaker's licence.
To delete in lines 33-34 the words "or any Act relating to gaming or gaming houses."
I am not very keenly interested in bookmaking or betting, and my only object in putting down this amendment is to prevent bookmakers from suffering an injustice. It is hardly fair that a bookmaker who may have been found guilty of crimes or offences under previous Acts should be penalised and prevented from getting a licence for the rest of his life for an offence or an act which we are now proposing to make legal. In sub-section (e) full power is given for the protection of the public. No undesirable person can get a licence. An applicant who, by reason of his general character or known habits is considered not to be a proper person to hold a licence cannot get a licence.
I think the object of the amendment is to prevent a bookmaker who may have been an honourable man from being arrested, as some of the most respectable people in the business have been arrested, because it was illegal for any person to carry on bookmaking. Therefore, I think the object of the amendment is that the fact that a person has been convicted under the Gaming Laws, who is carrying on the business of bookmaking, should not prevent him from getting a licence.
I am prepared to bring in an amendment making it clear that one of the offences dealt with under this amendment should only be an obstacle to the granting of a certificate if committed after the passing of this Act.
In view of what the Minister has said, I shall withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question—"That Section 4 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to. Sections 5 and 6 put and agreed to.
(1) Any person desiring to register or continue the registration of any premises of which he is the proprietor in the register of bookmaking offiecs may apply in the prescribed manner to the superintendent of the Gárda Síochána of the district in which the premises are situate for a certificate (in this Act referred to as a certificate of suitability of premises) that such premises are suitable for registration in the register of bookmaking offices.
Section 7, sub-section (1). To add at the end of the sub-section the words:—"Such application must be approved by two Peace Commissioners for the district in which the applicant resides, whose approval shall be testified by their signature to the application; and an advertisement shall be inserted by the applicant in at least two newspapers circulating in the district of his intention to apply for such certificate not less than a fortnight nor more than a month before the date of the making of the application."
Amendment put and declared carried.
Question—"That Section 7, as amended, stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
The following amendments were not moved:—
8. Section 10, sub-section (1). To delete in line 44 the words "superintendent of the Gárda Síochána" and to substitute therefor the words "District Justice."—Senator Parkinson.
9. Section 10, sub-section (2). To delete in line 55 the word "District" and to substitute therefor the word "Circuit."—Senator Parkinson.
10. Section 10, sub-section (3). To delete in line 56 the word "District" and to substitute therefor the word "Circuit."—Senator Parkinson.
11. Section 10, sub-section (3). To delete in lines 58-59 the words "superintendent of the Gárda Síochána" and to substitute therefor the words "District Justice."— Senator Parkinson.
12. Section 10, sub-section (4). To delete in line 60 the word "District" and to substitute therefor the word "Circuit"—Senator Parkinson.
13. Section 10, sub-section (4). To delete in line 62 the word "District" and to substitute therefor the word "Circuit."—Senator Parkinson.
14. Section 10, sub-section (4). To delete in line 63 the words "superintendent of the Gárda Síochána" and to substitute therefor the words "District Court."—Senator Parkinson.
15. Section 10, sub-section (5), line 70. To delete the word "and" and before the word "shall" to insert the words "or a person resident within one mile of the premises or place of residence of the applicant."—Senator Parkinson.
16. Section 10, sub-section (5). To delete paragraph (e). — Senator Parkinson.
Question—"That Sections 8 to Section 15 inclusive, stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
"(1) Registered premises shall not be opened or kept open for the transaction of business at any time on any Sunday, Christmas Day or Good Friday, nor before the hour of nine o'clock in the morning nor after the hour of six o'clock in the afternoon on any other day.
(2) If and whenever any registered premises are opened or kept open in contravention of this section the registered proprietor of such premises shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to an excise penalty of fifty pounds."
17. Section 16, sub-section (1). After the word "afternoon" in line 20, to insert the words "nor between the hours of 1.30 o'clock and five o'clock in the afternoon."
If, during the hours of twelve and five, when racing takes place, betting houses are kept open, it will largely decrease the attendance at race meetings, which will mean a decrease to the racing executive and a decrease of revenue to the State. Railway companies will suffer together with other transport companies, caterers, and many others employed on racecourses. The only community that will gain by keeping these houses open are the betting houses themselves. I do not think they deserve a great deal of consideration. They are not likely to cause any welfare to the country, morally or in any other way. Many people are opposed to betting. I do not oppose betting one way or another, nor do I mean to oppose the imposition of the betting tax, but I should like it to be carried out in a way that will not injure racing. If these betting houses are closed during racing hours it will induce people to go to racecourses. A man will do better by making a bet in the open-air than in a stuffy house.
Live-stock breeding is a great and growing industry in this country. Every year it has improved. Last year the Irish breeders obtained higher prices and higher averages. They even defeated the average of a great stud in England which for years had an unchallenged position. Less than a month ago there was offered for an Irish horse which was bred by a late member of this House, £100,000, and it was refused. That shows what Irish Free State breeding is coming to. That indicates an industry which everyone should support. There is no question but that the breeding of live-stock is very much mixed up with racing, and anything that is detrimental to one will be a detriment to the other. I should like the Minister to consider the closing of those betting-houses during the hours that racing takes place, and I am quite certain it will be an advantage to the country.
I support Senator Sir Bryan Mahon, but I should like to suggest to him that it might meet the wishes of the people we speak for if the closing time was only during the period when racing takes place in Ireland. Racing in Ireland covers only a period of 175 days. The fixtures for those race meetings are all published practically in January of each year, so that it would be possible for the Revenue Commissioners to notify bookmakers of the days on which racing takes place in Ireland. If any supplementary meeting took place afterwards, it need not be within the regulations. I do not think it is necessary to elaborate the harm that will be done to race meetings taking place in the Free State if betting houses are kept open on all the days on which racing takes place here. No doubt, people will not go to the bother of paying taxi fares and entrance fees to the grand stand when they can sit on a comfortable chair in a nicely furnished room and get the afternoon prices of racing that is taking place in England. As Senator Sir Bryan Mahon points out, any considerable falling off in the number going to race meetings will finish racing, which is in a precarious condition at the moment, and will bring about a lowering of stakes and a lessening of the revenue from the entertainment tax. It will hurt an essential industry and will not do good to anybody.
I think this is too drastic an amendment. Why should a betting house in Buncrana be closed if these is a race-meeting in Tralee? I think, as Senator Sir Bryan Mahon proposes it, it goes further. Even with the amendment suggested by Senator Parkinson, it goes too far. In any case, we would tempt people to have an arrangement whereby letters would be cleared out of the letter-box at a certain hour so that up to three o'clock anything dropped into the letter-box would be recorded. It is so drastic that it would inevitably lead to evasion. I do not think people would be driven to racecourses because difficulties were put in the way of betting. People go to races because they want to see racing and because of other reasons. I do not think it would mean anything to the racecourses and it would be so drastic that all sorts of devices would be resorted to for the purpose of evasion.
My suggestion was not that no betting should take place, only that the house would not be available for people to spend the afternoon of a race meeting in.
In a case like that, there will be grounds for an action against a licence-holder who allows congregation or over-crowding in his house.
The only object the amendment can have is to compel people, who cannot afford to do so, to attend race meetings. We cannot legislate to compel people to go to race meetings if they cannot afford it. I venture to say that the great bulk of the people who bet in what are known as starting-price houses in England and Ireland, never saw a racecourse. It is these people who, at their dinner hour, put on a few shillings. I am not saying that betting is good for them, but I say that you cannot take away from them the right to bet at a certain hour because there may be a race meeting that day at Limerick Junction. I say the amendment is absurd and it could not possibly be carried out. You cannot prevent those people from betting. If you give them the right to bet on horse-racing in England, you cannot, on the day on which there is racing in Ireland, prevent them from betting on racing in Ireland.
It is not proposed to close the house for the whole day. It is only proposed to close it up during the time of racing.
The only people this amendment would affect are people who have to earn their bread during the day. It is only during dinner hour that they can put their few shillings on.
As far as I know the real harm caused by betting is done to people who do not attend racecourses. There are thousands of people who have never seen a racecourse or who do not know a horse's head from his tail, so to speak. These are the people who are injured by betting. Of course we all know there is no possible chance of their winning. It is quite clear that everybody loses money if they go on long enough—everybody who is an outsider, who is not an owner or a trainer. It is notorious that the public loses systematically, otherwise the bookmakers could not exist, and that no information which an outsider can get would enable him to win money consistently. These are the people who are really injured by betting, people who are employed in shops and people who very often take their employer's money for the sake of paying bets. They get into financial difficulties. I do not care whether the people are poor or rich. I think everything should be done—I am not sure how far it can be done—to impede these people if possible.
I would change the hour named in the amendment to 2 o'clock if it would meet the Minister's views.
It would not.
Amendment put and negatived.
Sections 16 to 21, inclusive, put and agreed to.
(1) The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs may detain any postal packet suspected to contain a communication to which this section applies and shall forward every postal packet so detained to the Revenue Commissioners and those Commissioners may open and examine the packet, and if they find therein any communication to which this section applies may detain the packet and its contents for the purpose of prosecution, and if they find no such communication therein shall forward the packet and its contents by post to the person to whom it was addressed.
(2) Whenever the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs receives for transmission by telegraph a message which appears to be a communication to which this section applies, he may send to the Revenue Commissioners a copy of such message and such information in regard, thereto as he shall think fit to send or the Revenue Commissioners may ask for.
(3) The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs may after consultation with the Revenue Commissioners make regulations for the exercise of the powers and the performance of the duties conferred or imposed on him by this section.
(4) This section applies to every communication from a person in Saorstát Eireann (hereinafter called the sender) to a person outside Saorstát Eireann (hereinafter called the addressee) by which the sender purports either on his own behalf or on behalf of another person to make or enter into a bet with the addressee or by which the sender purports to employ, commission, or instruct the addressee to make or enter into a bet for or on behalf of the sender or any other person.
(5) This section in so far as it relates to postal packets shall be read and construed together with the Post Office Acts, 1908 to 1920, and in so far as it relates to telegrams shall be read and construed as one with the Telegraph Acts, 1863 to 1920.
On behalf of Senator Dr. Gogarty, I beg to move "To delete the Section." I think the effect of this section will be to prevent betting, by post, in England. That would prevent a bookmaker "laying off." We have heard recently from a high official of the Post Office that letters can only be opened for two reasons, one being that they contain indecent literature and the other that they contain treasonable correspondence. This section would supply a third reason for opening letters.
The position is that in various countries, particularly in Northern Ireland, there is no betting tax. Here we have a tax of 2½ per cent., but the restriction has no application to that tax elsewhere. The starting-price five per cent. tax must be paid by the bookmaker here. We know that the bookmaker is not going to pay that tax. He is going to recover that from the backer by shortening his odds. If we do not take all the measures we can I do not believe that the thing can be made water-tight. If we do not take all the measures to prevent betting outside, we are going to sustain a considerable loss in revenue here through business being sent out to places where there is no tax, and we are going to put a large number of bookmakers who do this class of business, out of business. It seems to me that where you have a tax you must protect the people who carry on that business in your own country. An amendment is being introduced to the British Finance Bill—unfortunately, I have not seen a copy of it—which shows that the British recognise that they must take steps to prevent betting business being sent out of Great Britain. Otherwise, a loss to the revenue and an inequity to the bookmaker would result.
I support the Minister in his attitude against this amendment. I think he is quite right in getting all the revenue in Ireland that can possibly be got. I do not see any reason from what I know of bookmaking and betting for the bookmakers to bet outside the country.
I support the amendment, because I think it is very improper to open letters. It is one of the difficulties that this Bill has led the Ministry into. Opening letters is objectionable, and has always been objectionable in this country. I suppose anybody, who knows anything about Grahamising, knows that it is very objectionable that the Post Office should open letters in that way. I strongly object to the proposal.
Amendment put and negatived.
Section 22 put and agreed to.
Section 23 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
(3) A totalisator licence may be granted in respect of any one or more specified places or in respect of all places of one or more specified classes or descriptions in Saorstát Eireann or any specified part of Saorstát Eireann and may be granted for one or more specified occasions or for all occasions of one or more specified classes or descriptions occurring during a specified period as the Minister shall think fit.
(4) The Minister may attach such restrictions and conditions as he shall think fit to each totalisator licence granted by him.
Section 24, sub-section (3). To delete the sub-section and to substitute the following new sub-section therefor:—
"(3) A totalisator licence shall not be granted by the Minister save to the Turf Club or to the National Hunt Steeplechase Committee, and either of these bodies may (subject to such conditions as the Minister may impose) grant to such persons as they shall think fit sub-licences on such conditions and for such occasion or occasions as they shall think fit: Provided always that the Minister may revoke any such sub-licence at any time."
I do not want to interfere with the powers or authority of the Minister or to deprive him of revenue. With the exception of three or four all the race meetings in Ireland are run by companies. They are all under the control of the recognised governing authorities, the Turf Club and the National Hunt Club, and they have to obtain a licence before they can hold a meeting. Therefore it would be more practicable for these bodies to issue the licence for the totalisator or thepari mutuel. The pari mutuel is a much cheaper system to work. I have had experience of the working of both those systems in India. About twenty years ago the Bombay Racing Club was in very low water. They did away with bookmakers altogether and started the pari mutuel and the totalisator system of betting and within three or four years they were a prosperous concern. About two years later the Calcutta Turf Club took up the same line, but they allowed bookmaking as well, the bookmakers paying a licence fee. These licences were paid according to where the meeting took place and were according to the amounts made by the management of the meetings. A man sometimes paid as much as £100 a day, but up country it might be £2 or £3. Within a few years the Calcutta Turf Club were making enormous sums, which they spent on their racecourse, which I should say is the finest in the world, and it was all due to the totalisator. After spending large sums of money there was about five years ago a surplus of £300,000 that the Calcutta Turf Club did not know what to do with. It made racing as cheap as possible and it gave away money to hospitals and so on. Up to that there had been no taxation. The Government then began to tax the thing, and each year it increased the taxation without consulting the racing authorities. To-day, from what I hear, the financial position of these clubs is much the same as it was twenty years ago. I believe also that New Zealand is in practically the same position, and this is all because the governments have been too grasping, and they have practically killed the goose that laid the egg for them.
There is no doubt that in those countries the totalisator system has been a success, and it has been a success in every country in which it has been tried. It is the fairest, the easiest and the most economical way of collecting revenue. But I do not for a moment say that it would be a success in this country, because here the conditions are very different from those I have mentioned. Here you have very small attendances in comparison, and the setting up of the machinery of the totalisator is very expensive. I went into the question with an Australian, who sets up these machines, and he would put one up at the Curragh for thirty starters at a cost of between £8,000 and £10,000. That is the cheapest form of machine, but it is a reliable one. Others are much more expensive. Still, if the initial expense could be got over it would be worth while giving it a trial.
I do not know whether the Senator is afraid that a licence would be given to any adventurer who might come in and undertake to work the totalisator. If he has any such opinion I should like to disabuse him of it. We certainly have no intention of giving a licence to anybody who may come in seeking concessions.
That was not in my mind. I meant the racing executives. It would be better to give it to them, and then they could make the conditions under which it could be worked. If you give it out indiscriminately there is no reason why the proceeds would not be expended on rent or in any other way. None of it would go to the benefit of the State. That is what I mean.
I think it is most probable that we would give a licence to the Turf Club, or to the National Hunt Steeplechase Committee, or perhaps to some other body that might be organised to represent racing interests generally. It might be thought desirable to organise a body on somewhat different lines. In any case, if we gave a licence we would propose to give it to a' committee, or some body representing racing interests. I assure the Senator that there is no intention of giving a licence to any adventurer who might come along. We should consider the idea as to whether or not a particular racing executive might not be given a licence. Of course, it would be much preferable to deal with some body that represented racing generally. We certainly think, in the first instance, that it is desirable that the discretion of the Government should not be fettered in any way. We have not gone thoroughly into the question. We might say that the Turf Club satisfies us, or that we think a committee composed of representatives of the Turf Club and other people would be better, and in order to keep the door open for getting the best possible body to control this, we leave it in the power of the Minister to grant a licence. I can assure the Senator that there is no intention whatsoever—and he can take it as an absolute promise—as far as the present Government and myself are concerned, that there will be any granting of a licence to an outsider.
Will this licence be put up for competition amongst suitable bodies, say, the Turf Club and the National Hunt Club, if they were prepared to compete against each other?
I do not think you would find any competition there. Supposing the Turf Club would not take it up or that we could not get anybody representing racing organisations to do so, we would have to give it in open competition. But I do not think that would be a desirable arrangement. It would be much better if we could get some body representing racing. For instance, if a body offered to conduct it and the expenses and the huge fees would eat up most of the proceeds, we would hold back. But I certainly believe we will find a body representing racing to carry it on on conditions which we would think satisfactory.
I think it might meet the wishes of Senator Sir Bryan Mahon if the Minister would state that the totalisator orpari-mutuel, which ever is adopted, will be always nonproprietary. That is, that no racecourse company should be a beneficiary and that there should be no beneficiary except the State and the State guarantee, given by the Minister, that half the net proceeds will go for the benefit of racing and that no individual racecourse or body of individuals should benefit outside the general interest.
I want to keep the door a little open. It might be generally agreed, though I do not think it is at all likely, that somebody could be found to work the whole thing more efficiently and more economically than either the State or any body representing racing, and it might be agreed by the Turf Club that it would be better that somebody else should run it. I do not think that it is at all likely to happen. The policy is that we should divide the profits of the working of the totalisator between the State and the racing interests. We, certainly, would be very slow to do anything else than one of these two things—either that the totalisator would be worked by a body representing racing, under conditions approved by us, or if we could not agree with that, that it should be worked directly by the Revenue Commissioners. Our whole inclination is against any outsider or against introducing any proprietary interest. We would only do that as a last resort. As Senator Sir Bryan Mahon pointed out, there are certain difficulties in working it here. Our attendances are thin, and it may be necessary to do the thing in a very economical way.
My whole intention is to keep the machine as the property of the Government and have the proceeds divided in the manner the Minister has suggested. In countries where proprietary interests have got hold of the machine it has become a great abuse. I strongly recommend the Minister to hold the machine and, no matter what tempting offers are made to him by people outside or inside the State, not to give away the machine and the revenue got from it to any proprietary interest.
I take it, Senator Sir Bryan Mahon, that you are satisfied with what the Minister has stated and that that applies also to the next amendment?
Perfectly, and I ask leave to withdraw these amendments.
Amendments 19 and 20, by leave, withdrawn.
Question—"That Sections 24 and 25 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
All fees paid on the grant of totalisator licences under this Act and all profits derived from the working of totalisators by the Revenue Commissioners under this Act shall be paid into or disposed for the benefit of the Exchequer in such manner as the Minister for Finance shall direct.
I beg to move amendment 21:—
Section 26. To delete the section and to substitute therefor a new section as follows:—
"26.—Half of all fees paid on the grant of totalisator licences under this Act and half of all profits derived from the working of totalisators shall be paid to the Minister for Lands and Agriculture for the benefit of the Turf Club and the National Hunt Steeplechase Committee in such proportion as he shall think fit and the other half shall be paid into and disposed for the benefit of the Exchequer in such manner as the Minister for Finance shall direct."
In this amendment I am trying to follow the example of the great democratic Republic of France. In France the total proceeds from the totalisator are an assigned tax paid to the Minister for Agriculture. The Minister for Agriculture in France is honorary head of the Turf Club and the National Hunt Club or bodies that correspond to them. He has a veto upon all fixtures and divides the money in the manner the Minister proposes here, except that he keeps to himself the spending of half of the proceeds. That money is devoted mainly to the benefit of agriculture ; part of it goes to the voluntary hospitals in Paris. The result of having the spending of this tax in France helps the farmers and the small breeders in this way: The Minister has a staff of expert advisers somewhat similar to the advisers of our Department of Agriculture. They are entitled to buy a certain number of stallions each year which are put at the service of the farmers, and they have been known to give £20,000 for a sire which is let to the farmers at a nominal fee of 25/-. I do not suppose there ever will be a time our Minister will have sums of money that would warrant an expenditure of that size, but he certainly will be getting a tax from what I might call the agricultural side of racing, and he will be in the position, if the tax is assigned to him, of spending it for that industry.
I am well aware that modern political economists are not in favour of assigned taxes. We have in the Free State one assigned tax which is collected through the Road Board and devoted to the improvement of the roads. The amendment proposes in a way to follow that example, and I ask the Minister to try to make that accommodation. Half the net tax, as the Minister for Finance stated, will be devoted to the general interests of racing, and I am quite satisfied with that announcement of his. But I would like to ask him to pay over the whole of the racecourse tax to the Minister for Agriculture.
I do not think I could accept this amendment and if I did it would not be easy to carry it in the other House. I have said we are prepared to recommend that half of the proceeds of the totalisator should go for racing. I made that statement in the Dáil and I think the members of all parties accepted it and I have no doubt at all that when propositions are made to the Dáil they will be carried through, but I think there would be great objection to putting in a Bill a proposal that would give money to the Minister for Agriculture for any purpose otherwise than as the result of the submission of an Estimate to the Dáil and the taking of a vote. I think that is the satisfactory way. I look upon it as very desirable that the whole of our expenditure, as far as possible—and we made various changes to bring this about— should come before the Dáil in Estimates each year. It is the opinion held in many quarters that funds should not enter the hands of the Minister for Finance and be paid out as a result of enactments but, rather, that they should be submitted to the Dáil in votes. The Senator may rely on it, not merely from my statement but from the way my statement was received by all parties in the Dáil, that they will be willing to vote this money in this particular way.
Is it the intention, although it is not specified in the Bill, that one-half of the proceeds collected from licences and from the totalisator shall be given back to the racing community and that one-half shall be retained by the Minister for Finance for such purposes as he thinks fit? If that is intended why is it not specifically included in the Bill instead of leaving the clause exceedingly vague as it is now?
It is intended that all fees and all results shall come into the Exchequer, but it is intended also to introduce, from year to year, an Estimate in the Dáil allotting for purposes connected with racing, and not racing only but horse-breeding—perhaps stakes would be most important— a sum equal to half the proceeds of the totalisator.
Do you wish me to put this amendment, Senator Parkinson?
No. I think on the Report Stage the Minister might meet me. As Senator Guinness points out, it is essential to have something in the Bill which would satisfy the people, which would get their co-operation and help to popularise the machine. If we knew that half of the net receipts were to go back, not so much for the encouragement of breeding as for the increase of stakes, it would be a help to the Minister and to the Revenue authorities so as to make the stakes attractive, and bring people to the racecourses and thus gather revenue.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment 22 not moved.
Sections 26 to 30, inclusive, put and agreed to.
Question—"That the Title stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
Bill ordered to be reported.
The Seanad went out of Committee.