Betting Bill, 1930—Committee.
Sections 1 to 3 inclusive agreed to.
(1) Any person (other than a body corporate or an unincorporated body of persons) who is ordinarily resident in Saorstat Eireann and desires to obtain a bookmaker's licence may, after publishing the notice hereinafter mentioned, apply in accordance with this section to the superintendent of the Gárda Síochána for 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 hold a bookmaker's licence.
I move amendment 1:
Section 4, sub-section (1). To delete in lines 19-20 the words "superintendent of the Gárda Síochána" and to substitute therefor the words "District Justice."
This amendment, on the whole, is self-explanatory. On the Second Stage last week I expressed the view that it was not desirable that matters of this kind should be entrusted to the discretion of a superintendent or other member of the Gárda, and that the granting of licences to bookmakers or others should be in the discretion of a judicial tribunal. I have nothing to add to what I said then.
I support this amendment. In my opinion, this section introduces into legislation a principle of very serious import. In all statutes dealing with licences, where the person to be licensed is an ordinary citizen, the question of his fitness to receive a licence has hitherto been a matter for judicial determination, and not for ministerial or police caprice. That is a principle which has had universal application. All the statutes that I can recall, from the time that licensing first became a practice, have had that character, with one exception. The exception was the case of a pedlar. The pedlar received a certificate of character from the police. That is the only exception that I can recollect, and members of the Seanad will appreciate the distinction in that case. Pedlars were of a roving class. In ancient times, they ranked with persons who were known as "vagabonds." I do not use that expression in an invidious sense. They were merely wanderers. Pedlars were the only persons whose character was a matter of certification by the police.
Publicans required a certificate, but that certificate was from householders. The final determination of the fitness of a person for a publican's licence was determined by a judge, and even a judge could not, of his own motion, declare a person unfit for a publican's licence. He had to act upon an objection by the executive arm—that is, by the police. That was the system under which the licensing laws were worked. It was a sound and equitable system, and it had due regard—I wish to impress this on the Seanad very strongly—to the rights and to the liberties of the citizen. I regard this as an important question, because I find in the Executive a desire to encroach, on the one side, upon the legislature and, on the other side, upon the functions of the judiciary. I consider that this is a matter of supreme importance, and that no consideration of ministerial convenience is sufficient to justify such a departure from established rule.
This matter was before the Seanad four or five years ago, when the original Bill was under discussion. An amendment to the same effect as the present amendment was then defeated. The same question was before the Dáil recently, and the Dáil refused to accept the view put forward just now by Senator Connolly and Senator Comyn. I do not propose, therefore, to take up much time in arguing the issue.
The system at present in operation has had four or five years' trial, and has worked satisfactorily. There have been no complaints in regard to it, and I do not think that there could be complaints. If a police officer raises any objection to a person being granted a certificate of personal fitness, the applicant has an appeal to the District Justice. If there are no grounds of objection, then time is not taken up in bringing judicial machinery into operation when there is no necessity for such machinery being brought into operation. Every class of licence must be dealt with on its own merits when the question of the adoption of suitable machinery is being considered. We have some classes of licence with which the police deal exclusively. We have other classes of licence into the granting of which the police do not enter very much at all, except by way of making recommendations to the District Justice. The system in the present Bill seems to us to be a workmanlike system. It introduces no unnecessary complexity, and it involves applicants in no unnecessary expense. It has worked well and I see no reason why it should be changed. The mere decision, in the first instance, of a police officer as to whether or not he considers the applicant a fit person does not involve judicial action. Judicial action comes when there is a dispute, and when the matter comes before the District Justice.
This is a matter on which I have had rather an open mind. Listening to the arguments put forward last time by the Minister and the arguments put forward by Senator Connolly, I came to the conclusion that the present system of appeal was probably all right, so long as the law remains as it is, when there are only very restricted grounds on which a licence can be refused. Before long, however, I think there will have to be other reasons, such as the simple one that sufficient licences have been granted already in a particular district. If that should be the case— as I think will be found necessary—I think it would be essential that the question should be decided by a judge and not by a police officer. As the matter stands, I do not agree with Senator Comyn that there is any danger of unfairness, since there is an appeal to the District Justice. The only reason I was inclined to favour application to the District Justice was that I thought it would make it more difficult to increase the number of licences. When the first Bill was passed, there were no licences in existence, and it is obvious that a comparatively simple way had to be found of issuing those licences. I am inclined to think that there are at present, in most places, quite sufficient licences, and it would be well if some way could be devised by which the number would be restricted, even though persons who would be otherwise suitable may make application. If that were done, it could not be left to the superintendent to decide whether or not there were sufficient licences in a particular neighbourhood. It would be his duty to put the facts before the Justice. Under this Bill, the superintendent has to satisfy himself that the applicant is a fit person, that he has not done certain things, and, having satisfied himself on that, he has to give a certificate no matter how many licences are in existence.
I do not think there is very much in this amendment. My own view is that the present system is less expensive to people who want licences than the procedure of going into Court would be. It is much more likely, too, that the Civic Guard officer would know more about the rights and wrongs of an application than would a District Justice. It would cost the applicant a great deal more to satisfy the District Justice that he was a fit person than it would cost him to get a certificate from the superintendent of the Civic Guard. I think it would be better to leave the position as it is.
I support this amendment. All constitutional history points to the fact that when the interests or lives of the people are at stake the procedure should be judicial, and should not be in the hands of Ministers or police. The police are under the control of the Executive and of Ministers, and the procedure is most reactionary. To order the police to carry out these functions is going back to the old days of absolute power. These functions should be carried out by the judiciary. To say that this was done before is no argument, because a great many things have been done in the last few years which ought never to have been done, and which will have to be changed some day. Ministers have a constant desire to interfere with the liberty of the subject.
I think the only person who has any real grievance in this matter is the lawyer, because the Bill does deprive lawyers of a certain amount of much-needed practice. To that extent, there is a grievance. From the point of view of the applicant, the procedure under the Bill saves quite a lot of unnecessary expense. What is more, it saves the necessity of having debated in Court, over and over again, the ethics of betting and the desirability of granting licences at all. You may get a District Justice who will conscientiously believe that betting is immoral, and that he ought to put every conceivable obstacle in the way of applicants for betting licences. I have in mind one District Justice who thinks that every man who indulges in the art of dancing is a devil incarnate. Whenever an application comes before his Court for a licence for a dance-hall or for permission to extend the licence for a couple of hours on a special occasion, he turns the bench into a regular Salvationist tub, denounces all and sundry who have anything to do with dancing, and, if he does grant the application, he grants it on preposterous conditions for a judge—such, for instance, as that the promoters must have a certain number of particular sorts of dances. That is all right from an ordinary individual, but coming from the bench it takes away from the dignity of the law and brings the law into contempt and ridicule.
Is it in order to criticise a judge in this House?
The Senator is quite in order in what he has said. He has mentioned no names.
If a superintendent of the Gárda develops similar tendencies, or any particular strain of eccentricity, there is an appeal from him. There is more likely to be a common policy adopted throughout a force like the Gárda Síochána than there is by individual justices. It has been pointed out by those who know about the present system that there has been no complaint with regard to it. It has been working, largely, without the assistance of lawyers, and I do not think that anything that has happened would justify this House in changing the present effective and inexpensive system into one which would only mean expense and a lot of public discussion that would not be for the good of the community as a whole.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 6; Níl, 31.
- Michael Comyn, K.C.
- Joseph Connolly.
- J.C. Dowdall.
- Colonel Moore.
- Joseph O'Doherty.
- Séumas Robinson.
- William Barrington.
- Sir Edward Coey Bigger.
- Miss Kathleen Browne.
- Mrs. Costello.
- John C. Counihan.
- The Countess of Desart.
- James G. Douglas.
- Michael Duffy.
- The McGillycuddy of the Reeks.
- John MacLoughlin.
- Seán Milroy.
- William John Molloy.
- James Moran.
- Sir Walter Nugent.
- Joseph O'Connor.
- John T. O'Farrell.
- Michael Fanning.
- Thomas Foran.
- Dr. O. St. J. Gogarty.
- Major-General Sir William Hickie.
- P. J. Hooper.
- Thomas Johnson.
- Sir John Keane.
- Cornelius Kennedy.
- M.F. O'Hanlon.
- L. O'Neill.
- Dr. William O'Sullivan.
- Siobhán Bean an Phaoraigh.
- Thomas Toal.
- A.R. Vincent.
- Richard Wilson.
Tellers:—Tá, Senators Comyn and Connolly; Níl, Senators Sir Walter Nugent and O'Farrell.
Amendment declared lost.
Section 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
5.—(1) Any person (other than a body corporate or an unincorporated body of persons) who is ordinarily resident outside Saorstát Eireann and desires to obtain a bookmaker's licence may, after publishing the notice hereinafter mentioned, apply in the prescribed manner and form to the Minister for Justice for a certificate (included in the references in this Act to a certificate of personal fitness) that he is a fit and proper person to hold a bookmaker's licence.
(3) On receiving an application under this section for a certificate of fitness the Minister for Justice may in his absolute discretion either give to the applicant a certificate in the prescribed form that such applicant is a fit and proper person to hold a bookmaker's licence or may on any ground and without stating the ground refuse to give such certificate.
I move amendment 2:—
Section 5, sub-section (1). To delete in line 51 the words "the Minister for Justice" and to substitute therefor the words "a Circuit Court Judge for the City of Dublin."
The arguments I used on the previous amendment apply in this case but, perhaps, in a different way. We feel that it is undesirable that the Minister for Justice should be involved in the decision of the question as to whether external bookmakers ought to be permitted to operate in the State or not. This should also be a matter for judicial decision. I move the amendment on the general principle that none of these matters should be decided by individuals who are not acting in a judicial capacity.
I think the very same objections would apply to this amendment as applied to the other. If it were adopted, it would undoubtedly cost a good deal more money to initiate proceedings in the court.
Is it not the case that in practically every instance the Minister for Justice is the person who decides whether an individual from any country can or cannot carry on business in this country?
That is the sort of question in regard to foreigners that is decided normally by the Minister. It is not possible at all for a court to operate in the case of a foreigner. Take the case of a bookmaker from England, and let us assume that he makes an application to the Court. It might be impossible for the police here to submit evidence to the Court in relation to the application, although they might be able to get information by letter or otherwise from England which would form sufficient evidence to prevent a licence being given. It might not be possible, however, to get the information in a form in which it could be placed before the Court. Normally when a case of this sort comes before the Minister for Justice, the people who are authorities on racing or betting in England would, if it was thought necessary, be communicated with, and some method would be adopted of finding out the record or standing of the person making the application. This information could be submitted when the application would be considered by the Minister for Justice. Relatively speaking, that could easily be done. In order, however, to present information of that sort to a court there would be considerable difficulty. As Senator Douglas has pointed out, when we are dealing with non-citizens, it is the regular practice to place additional powers in the hands of Ministers as compared with the powers they possess for the purpose of dealing with our own citizens.
Amendment put and negatived.
With the permission of the Seanad, I would like to withdraw the next two amendments.
Amendments 3 and 4, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 5 put and agreed to.
A superintendent of the Gárda Síochána may refuse an application for a certificate of personal fitness on any one or more of the following grounds and on no other ground whatsoever, that is to say:—
(j) that the applicant is acting as agent for a person whose application would be refused on one or other of the grounds set out in paragraphs (a), (b), (c), and (d) of this section;
I think amendment 5 is also consequential.
I think so. With the leave of the House, I will withdraw it.
Amendment 5, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move amendment 6:—
Section 6—To delete all after the word "in" in line 49 down to the end of paragraph (j) and to substitute therefor the words "the foregoing paragraphs of this section."
Section 6 deals with the grounds on which the superintendent of the Gárda Síochána may refuse an application for a certificate of personal fitness. It sets out those grounds and emphasises that on no other grounds whatsoever can a superintendent refuse to grant a certificate. There are several grounds set out, and one is that the applicant is acting as agent for a person whose application would be refused on one or other of the grounds set out in paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d). So far as I can see, if a refusal were given to an application for a licence on the grounds set out in paragraphs (e), (f), (g), (h) and (i), and a licence was sought by another person who would be acting as agent for the person refused, the superintendent would have no right to refuse a certificate to that person on any of those grounds. That, to me, seems most unaccountable. Perhaps the Minister will give us an explanation. It would appear that if a person was refused a certificate by the superintendent on the ground that he had not paid his betting debts, that he had not been ordinarily resident in the Free State for more than twelve months, or that his premises had been conducted in a disorderly manner, and if, later, some other person acting as his agent made application for a certificate, the superintendent could not refuse. I cannot understand that, and it was purely with the object of getting this matter clarified and, if possible, making it competent for the superintendent to refuse to give a certificate to the agent of such a person, a person of bad character in the betting world, that I put down the amendment.
I do not feel very strongly in regard to this particular amendment. The reason why the grounds in paragraph (j) were limited was this: I think there was an attempt made to divide the different sorts of objection a superintendent might have into objections that would be major and objections about which there could be no dispute, and, on the other hand, objections which would not necessarily be quite so clear. The question of agency will, I think, arise generally when some bookmaker has been refused a licence on some one of these grounds set out in the section, and when he gets a relative or some member of his family to apply for a certificate. In many cases the grounds set out in the section would necessarily apply to members of a bookmaker's family. For instance, if the financial circumstances were such as would not render him fit to hold the position of bookmaker, it would be unlikely that any member of his family could carry on the business. Where a house has been conducted in a disorderly manner it is quite possible that the individual who would not be able to conduct that house properly would have a son or other relative who would be in a position to conduct the house quite well, and that person might become actually responsible for running the business. My inclination, if Senator Johnson's amendment were accepted, would be to alter the place of paragraph (i) and put it down below paragraph (j) in the section. I do not feel strongly about the amendment at all.
I read this section through before I saw Senator Johnson's amendment. I was very much puzzled and I thought there might be some technical reason. I hope the House will adopt Senator Johnson's amendment. While I admit there is something in the case made by the Minister with regard to paragraph (i), I cannot see any case with regard to (e), (f), (g), and (h). If a man has carried on business in a disorderly manner it is not desirable that an agent should be permitted to act for him. I think there will be any number of people prepared to take licences in the Free State without the occasion ever arising for the appointment of agents. I consider that the amendment proposed by Senator Johnson is a necessary amendment.
It seems to me that the word "agent" rather complicates this matter. If a man has conducted business in a disorderly way or in a dishonest fashion, and if another man comes forward as his agent and seeks a licence, you have still, notwithstanding the agent, the same man carrying on the business. If a man were ruled out for dishonesty or for conduct which clearly made him unsuitable for running a betting place, and if an agent were permitted to act on that man's behalf, that agent would be merely a shield and the man would himself still be carrying on the business. As the Minister has pointed out, the man who would be guilty of disorderly conduct might have a relative who would be prepared to run the business in a straight fashion and in a very orderly manner. That would be a totally different state of affairs. You could, in that way, give a man a chance of turning over the business to a member of his family who would be prepared to conduct it properly. If you do not make some sort of distinction it would be possible for a man who might be guilty of any sort of atrocity to appoint an agent who would be acting as a shield for him. It would be a desirable thing if the man had an opportunity of getting a respectable member of his family to take over responsibility and run the premises in a proper manner.
The Bill sets out that the superintendent may refuse the application; it is not that he must refuse and, therefore, I think the Minister's objection does not hold. If his proposal were followed there is the possibility of a person who had been conducting his place in a disorderly manner handling over nominal responsibility to an agent who might be his son, his brother, or his wife. There is no obligation, under the drafting of this section, upon the superintendent to refuse a licence on any ground. He may refuse it on the grounds specified.
And no other. Let us say that the superintendent is convinced that no member of the family is competent to run the business on behalf of that particular person; he would not be able to refuse the licence to the agent of that person. The other objecttions involved in paragraphs (e), (f), (g) and (h) are certainly stronger. I suggest to the Minister that the explanation is that (a), (b), (c) and (d) are in the original Act and the power to refuse applied only to those. These other paragraphs have been added in this Bill, and there has not been any change made in the drafting of (j). It would be a lamentable thing if the superintendent were compelled, in effect, to give a licence to a person who he was satisfied was only acting as agent for another person who had abused his privileges.
Is the Minister prepared to accept the amendment?
Amendment agreed to.
Section 6, as amended, and Sections 7 to 9, inclusive, agreed to.
There is an amendment in my name to Section 10. I do not think I will proceed with this amendment in view of the decision reached on earlier amendments.
Amendment 7, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments 8 and 9 are consequential.
Amendments 8 and 9 not moved.
Section 10 agreed to.
(1) A certificate of suitability of premises may be refused on any one or more of the following grounds and on no other ground whatsoever, that is to say:—
(a) that the applicant is neither a licensed bookmaker nor the holder of a certificate of personal fitness;
(b) that the applicant is not the proprietor of the premises;
(c) that the premises are in close proximity to a place of worship, a religious institution, a school, an employment exchange, a factory or works, or other similar place in or near which large numbers of persons congregate, or are situate in a residential area;
(d) that the premises are in close proximity to premises known to be resorted to habitually by evilly-disposed persons;
(e) that the premises communicate internally with other premises.
I beg to move amendment 10:—
Section 11, sub-section (1). After the word "premises" in line 29 to insert the words "or with any room or rooms used as a dwelling in which any person under the age of eighteen years resides."
My amendment is intended to prevent premises from being licensed as bookmaking offices if they communicate with any dwelling or any place where children reside. I will give an illustration. In a tenement house there might be a bookmaker's office on the ground floor. It might lead into the hall, as frequently happens in the case of Dublin houses. There might be children around the hall or in the "two pair back," as they call it. I think that is undersirable. A bookmaker may have his office on the ground floor and he may reside in the rooms at the back and these rooms might communicate directly with his bookmaking offices. His children may reside in the back portion of the premises and I submit that that is not right. There should not be internal communication between a bookmaker's office and any place where children reside.
I think the sort of case that Senator Comyn suggests could not possibly occur. The sort of place to which it might apply is a small house that would be occupied by the bookmaker. He would live there with his family and he would have exclusive occupation of the premises.
I know of cases in the country where a bookmaker would take a room or a house in a town. There would be the hall door connecting with the rest of the house. It would seem somewhat harsh on the bookmaker in that case to be obliged to cut off his place of business. Perhaps it would be unnecessary, as well as harsh, to make him completely cut off the shop, in which he carries on the business of bookmaking, from the rest of the house. The sort of place that Senator Comyn suggests could not, I think, arise for consideration under the Bill.
The amendment is rather nauseating because it is based on the hypocritical suggestion that all this business of bookmaking is a kind of immoral practice and that a bookmaker, in fact, keeps an irregular house. Here we have the Government of this country benefiting largely from the results of betting through sweepstakes. At the same time we are told that children are not to be allowed into a house where there is a bookmaker. The whole thing is perfectly farcical. The sooner we recognise the fact that betting is an honourable profession, the better for the public.
The difference between the Minister and myself arises from what I consider to be a misconception in the Minister's mind as to the meaning of the word "premises." I think the Minister is of the opinion that the word "premises" includes all the premises under one roof. There could be several sets of premises under the same roof.
There is a definition, and it sets out "the word ‘premises' means any house or other building and includes a defined part of a house or other building."
If we adopt the amendment we will weaken paragraph (e). We do not propose to deal with the bookmaker's own home. As the Bill stands, if the office communicates with any other internal premises, and I take it that means other rooms separately set, that would be a ground for refusing the licence. Any qualification would weaken the paragraph. Otherwise I would be in agreement with the Senator.
In Section 29 we read: "It shall not be lawful for any person to send or bring into any registered premises any person under the age of eighteen years other than persons ordinarily resident in such premises and officers of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs entering such premises in the course of their duty as such officers." Obviously, the Minister has objection to any children under eighteen being brought into those premises.
Carrying bets—carrying money.
I think there is more in it than that. It deliberately assumes that the atmosphere and environment of a bookmaker's office are such that it is not desirable to have young people there. We are trying to avoid hypocrisy in this matter. If it is not fit for children under eighteen, then it is not a fit place for the children of the owner of the bookmaker's office. The amendment that has been proposed is an endeavour to keep the section in harmony with the spirit of Section 29.
Amendment put and negatived.
Sections 11 to 19, inclusive, agreed to.
(3) The registered proprietor of registered premises shall not proclaim or announce in such premises to the persons there present the terms or odds on or at which he is willing to take bets in relation to any particular race, match, or other contest, or in respect of any competitor in any such contest.
(4) The registered proprietor of registered premises shall not exhibit or permit to be exhibited in or outside such premises so as to be seen from the street any lists or statements of the terms or odds on or at which he is willing to take bets in relation to any particular race, match, or other contest, or in respect of any competitor in any such contest, or lists or statements of the competitors entered for or withdrawn from or taking or likely to take part in any such contest, or statements of facts, news, or forecasts in respect of any such contest, or any other incitement or inducement to bet.
(5) On any day on which a horse race-meeting is held in Saorstát Eireann, Northern Ireland, or Great Britain, the registered proprietor of registered premises shall not, during the period between the time fixed for the starting of the first race at such race-meeting and the expiration of one-quarter of an hour after the time fixed for the starting of the last race at such race-meeting, make or permit to be made in such premises any payment in respect of moneys won on any bet made with such registered proprietor whether in relation to a race at such race-meeting or in relation to any other race, match, or other contest.
I beg to move:
Section 20, sub-section (3).—To delete all after the word "contest" in line 64 down to the end of the sub-section and to substitute therefor the words "event or occurrence, or in respect of any competitor in any such contest, event or occurrence."
This amendment is simply to fill a gap, to remedy an omission. The section deals with restrictions on the use of registered premises. I think it is not unknown that bets are taken on other things than matches, races or contests. I take it the intention is to prohibit the calling out of odds in regard to any event. It is only to fill that gap that I propose this amendment. I would prefer to use the word "contingency" instead of "occurrence," as it would be more in keeping with the legal phraseology of other measures of this kind.
I have consulted about this matter and I am advised that it is not necessary to make this particular change. This sub-section was put into the Bill to deal with the possible abuse of the noise, the excitement and the incitement that would arise from the calling of odds. It is quite conceivable that odds might be called on some sort of contest, but one can hardly imagine a bookmaker offering odds on the prospect of there being another earthquake in Tokio within the next two years.
The breaking of a sprinting record, for example.
Senator Hooper has suggested a general election. I think that is a contest and it would come under the definition of a contest.
I am not pressing the amendment, but I still think there is an omission.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment 12 is consequential on amendment 11.
Amendment 12 not moved.
I beg to move amendment 13:—
Section 20, sub-section (5). After the word "race" in line 14 to insert the words "on that day."
Amendments 13, 14 and 15 have relation to the same thing. The effect of the words suggested in the amendments would be to prevent the paying out of money on the day of the races between the time fixed for the starting of the first race and a quarter of an hour after the starting of the last race. It would prevent the man who wins on the first race collecting his money and putting the winnings on the next race. This practice, it is believed, would mean the crowding of the betting premises in an undersirable fashion.
Could the Minister assure us that this is a practical operation? Can you allow the payment of money due on yesterday's races and at the same time prohibit the payment of money due on to-day's races? I wonder if that is practicable. If it is, there can be no objection, but it seems to me that it is very doubtful if it is practicable.
I think that complete enforcement will be difficult. On the other hand, I think when there have been a few fines there will be probably a comparatively small amount of paying out. I agree with Senator Johnson that it will be difficult to enforce this. If we left the section as it was in the Bill, there might, on the other hand, be more temptation and it might lead to some method of having agents going around paying out and this might generally tend to put the thing under ground. It is really a choice of two evils.
I consider that this is one of the most important features in the Bill. There have been complaints about loitering on betting premises, and about inducements being offered to working-class people to keep hanging around the betting offices. The real reason why they hang round is that they can draw the money. If you delete this, you will merely be offering them more inducement to hang round the offices.
There have been complaints that people are seen hanging round the betting offices all the day. They remain round the offices awaiting the result of races in order to back other horses. That is unpleasant, and I think it would be of great benefit if payment were not made until the following day. There is no reason why the bookmaker could not hold over payment until the day following. I think it would be a better system to postpone payment.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move amendment 14:—
Section 20, sub-section (5). After the word "race" in line 16 to insert the words "on that day."
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment 15:—
Section 20, sub-section (5). To delete all after the word "proprietor" in line 19 down to the end of the sub-section and to substitute therefor the words "in relation to a race run on that day at such race-meeting."
This amendment is necessary, following the previous amendments which I moved and which were accepted by the House.
Would it not be better to consider this amendment together with the following amendment in the name of Senator Robinson?
If this amendment is accepted I do not think Senator Robinson's amendment will be necessary.
Amendment put and agreed to.
Amendments 16 and 17 not moved.
Section 20, as amended, 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.
I move amendment 18:—
Section 21, sub-section (1). To delete the word "six" in line 29 and to substitute therefor the word "seven."
My idea in putting down this amendment is simply to get some information and possibly to clarify the position. The amendment deals with the hours of opening. From what I can understand there are certain days on which there are race meetings held at different centres. At one centre, the first race may be at 1.30 p.m. while at another meeting the last race may not take place until 5.30. If the offices must close at 6 o'clock it seems to me that some people may have a difficulty in collecting their bets. There is, of course, a provision that winnings cannot be collected until the next day. Take the position of a person working from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a lunch hour between 2 and 3. If the offices are closed at 6 o'clock that particular individual will have no facilities for collecting his bets. I am not very much concerned whether he is able to do that or not, but my attitude is that if we take the responsibility for legalising betting then we ought to try and do it in an orderly way. It seems to me that the offices would require to remain open until 7 o'clock to enable a person, such as I have referred to, to collect his bets.
Presumably some people won from the bookmakers during the time the old Act was in operation and they must have collected their winnings between the present hours of 9 to 6.
They may have collected them during the lunch hour, but now they will not be allowed to collect during the hours of racing.
They can collect during the hours of racing—that has been altered by Senator Milroy's amendment—but not the winnings on that day's racing.
The assumption seems to be that people are able to collect their winnings even outside the lunch hour.
No. Presumably they were able to collect during the lunch hour.
I think that when the Bill fixes the hours of opening from 9 to 6 some opportunity should be afforded the people who are at work between those hours to collect their winnings. The opportunity they are given at present to collect does not seem to be adequate.
I quite disagree with Senator Connolly. The same arguments were used in the case of the opening of business premises. It was said that if the shops closed at 6 or 7 o'clock many people would be denied an opportunity of doing their shopping, and that therefore there should be opening until 11 o'clock. There was always the argument that you had to meet somebody. For my part, I hope that a late opening will not be agreed to in this case.
I do not think that Senator Douglas's argument is quite sound. There is a vast difference between extending the hours from 6 to 7 and extending the hours from 7 to 11. I think the Senator must agree that in his trade and in mine there are many people working from 9 to 6 o'clock. My argument is that these people will have no opportunity of collecting their winnings if the closing hour is not extended beyond 6 o'clock.
I agree that they are working until 6 o'clock in the evening, but if you are to extend the hour to enable them to go to betting shops, you might also extend it to enable them to put their money into other equally legitimate forms of business. In regard to extending the hours of opening, we are always up against this argument. I frankly admit that if business houses were to remain open to a later hour than that fixed at present, they could pick up a certain amount of business. I am opposed to giving facilities to betting people that are not given to people who want to do their ordinary business.
Senator Douglas has missed altogether the point of my argument. Nobody wants to back a horse at 6 o'clock in the evening. What they do want to do is to collect their winnings, their few shillings, if they have any to collect.
If the offices were to remain open until 10 o'clock at night, you would find people going to them to bet. People would go to bet on the dogs. I can assure Senators that if you have a few shillings to draw in the way of winnings, there is no difficulty whatever in collecting them.
I have only one suggestion to make and it is that I hope Senator Douglas will take some steps to see that the sweep offices will close at 6 o'clock also.
I hope the Senator will help me.
Do you wish to press the amendment, Senator?
In view of what the Minister has said I ask leave to withdraw it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
(1) It shall not be lawful for a licensed bookmaker to make, take, or enter into a bet of a lesser amount than one shilling.
I move amendment 19:—
Section 22, sub-section (1). To add at the end of the sub-section the words "on any one event."
The object of the amendment is to prevent a young fellow from going into a bookmaker's shop with a shilling and putting sixpence each way on a horse. The Minister may think that the words in the amendment are unnecessary, but it seems to me that they are necessary.
Sixpence each way means two bets. There are two hazards and two different results are possible. I have had a consultation with regard to this amendment and I am satisfied that it is not necessary.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 22 agreed to.
(2) No registered proprietor of registered premises shall permit any person under the age of eighteen years (other than persons ordinarily resident on such premises and officers of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs entering such premises in the course of their duty as such officers) to enter or be on such premises.
I move amendment 20:—
Section 23, sub-section (2). To delete in line 54 the words "persons ordinarily resident on such premises and."
My object in moving the amendment is that I am anxious the House should prevent the issue of a licence for any premises in which children reside. I was not present when the question was debated earlier, but I understand the House has already decided against the principle of the amendment. It the Minister objects I will not press the amendment.
I cannot accept the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 23 agreed to.
Sections 24 to 28 inclusive agreed to.
Amendment 21 not moved.
Section 29 agreed to.
(1) Every person who stands or loiters outside or near any registered premises after he has been requested by a member of the Gárda Síochána to move on shall (whether such standing or loitering is or is not an obstruction to traffic) be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for any term not exceeding two months.
I move amendment 22:
Section 30, sub-section (1). After the words "Gárda Síochána" in line 50 to insert the words "in uniform."
This section deals with loitering near registered premises. It provides that every person who stands or loiters outside or near any registered premises after he has been requested "by a member of the Gárda Síochána to move on" shall be guilty of an offence. I do not know that the colloquialism "to move on" has any precedent in an Act of Parliament, but I suppose it will pass. We know from the evidence that was given before the Joint Committee on the Betting Act of 1926 that sometimes representatives of the law may be in private clothes outside these premises. If such a person, who, when he reveals himself, happens to be a member of the Gárda Síochána, requests a member of the public to move on and perhaps does not do it too gently and the latter refuses, I think it is unreasonable that he should be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £20 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two months. A person may be loitering or standing about registered premises. Another person in plain clothes comes along and tells him to move on. He resents the command. I think it is unreasonable to say that the person who resents that command or order should render himself liable to a penalty of £20 or to two months' imprisonment. My amendment provides that the Guard who makes the request must be in uniform before these penalties will follow a refusal to obey the order.
I am accepting the amendment.
I think the amendment would be improved if the words were added: "In uniform or showing an identification badge." If the man who makes the request is in uniform, then the person standing outside the bookmaker's premises will know that he is a policeman, but there may be occasions when Guards not in uniform may find it necessary to ask people to move on. If he shows his identification badge, I think that all the consequences ought to follow which would follow from an order given by a Guard in uniform. If the Minister in charge of the Bill is willing to accept the amendment, it may be a bit presumptuous on my part to press that it should be improved in the way I suggest.
Amendment put and agreed to.
I move amendment 23:—
Section 30, sub-section (1).—To delete the word "twenty" in line 53 and to substitute therefor the word "five."
This amendment proposes to amend the fine laid down in the Bill and to reduce it from £20 to £5. Even if the order is given by a Guard in uniform the offence in normal circumstances is not so great. Even if the Guard considers that the offence is a grievous one, he has the power to arrest without warrant. I think the penalty provided in the Bill is excessive, certainly for a first offence, and that it ought to be amended. I am suggesting £5. It may be necessary on the Report Stage to add something further with regard to repeated offences, but this is not the kind of offence that ought to be the subject of a fine of that kind. If a fine of £20 were to be provided for in the section it would, I think, rather suggest to the District Justice that the Oireachtas was thinking of this as a very serious offence indeed. I do not think it should be treated quite so seriously as a £20 fine would suggest.
I think that the £20 rather shows that those responsible have been thinking of an excise penalty. This is not an excise penalty. I agree with Senator Johnson that £5 would be enough.
I am prepared to accept the amendment. I think the penalty was based on a section of an Act passed in another country for a similar offence. I do not think it is necessary to have it as high as £20.
Amendment agreed to.
I take it that on the Report Stage the Minister will agree to an amendment, following the change just made, providing for the normal relation between fine and imprisonment?
Amendment 24 (Senator Johnson) ordered to be taken on the Report Stage.
I move amendment 25:
Section 30, sub-section (2). After the words "Gárda Síochána" in line 56 to insert the words "in uniform."
This is consequential on a previous amendment of mine which was accepted.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 30 as amended agreed to Section 31 agreed to.
I move amendment 26:—
Section 32. To delete the section.
The first part of this section prevents a person from making a bet with an English bookmaker or with a friend. For instance, if his friend lives in London a person here cannot have a £5 bet with him on the Derby. People here are precluded from betting with people across the water. That seems to me a very unreasonable proposition. Of course, there is an exception in the case of the bookmaker. I suppose the object of the provision is that none of the money that passes in bets here should escape the revenue authorities. I think this provision is an unreasonable interference with the liberty of a private person—that he should be prevented from betting with any person he likes. The present position is that he must bet with someone in this country if he bets at all. If that was carried to its logical conclusion then the people in other countries should not be allowed to buy tickets in connection with the sweeps held here.
If what is provided for in this section were followed up and made the law in Britain, then no one there would be allowed to buy a ticket in connection with our sweeps. I think that is very unreasonable.
Without a provision such as this I think that our revenue from the betting tax would shrink very considerably, because it would enable the most elaborate machinery to be prepared by outside bookmakers for the purpose of receiving bets, thereby escaping the payment of tax. I do not say that we can make that absolutely perfect because people will write to bookmakers on the other side or even wire to them in code and put bets on. What we can do is to prevent the thing being done on a wholesale scale. Without this provision arrangements, such as I have referred to, would be made with the result that only very small bets would be laid here. Arrangements would be made to have the bets transmitted to bookmakers outside the country who would not be liable for tax.
It seems strange that nobody ever dreams of interfering with the speculator on the Stock Exchange sending a commission to an agent in London to invest his money there. Why should another class of speculator who wishes to invest his money on the other side be prevented from doing so? The result of this section is that the unfortunate punter at home has a very limited choice. The bookmakers can make a ring and offer him a certain price. He is not allowed to take advantage of the bigger area and the higher prices that may be offered outside the country. While the punter has to take the limited odds offered to him the bookmaker who lays him that price has the right, under the Act, to invest that man's money outside the country.
The bookmaker can receive bets from outside.
Sub-section (1) of the section provides that it shall not be lawful for any person in the Saorstát to make or enter into a bet with a person who is then outside the Saorstát or to employ, commission or instruct any person who is for the time being outside the Saorstát to make or enter into a bet for him or on his behalf. Therefore, while the bookmaker offers reduced odds he can, after taking the punter's wager, send it across the water and get the greater odds for himself.
The bookmaker here can receive bets from persons outside provided they are not bookmakers. The more he gets the better odds he can offer.
It does not work out that way. I think there is a good deal in Senator Colonel Moore's amendment and I intend to support it.
I hope some provision will be put into the Bill providing that betting offices will be required to display notices showing plainly that people under eighteen years of age are not to be on betting premises. I hope that point will be attended to.
It can be raised on the Report Stage.
With regard to the point raised by Senator Foran I wish to say that if we had not this provision in the Bill the betting tax would be worth relatively little.
Was this provision in the old Act?
Amendment put and declared lost.
Section 32, 33, 34 and 35 agreed to.
The several enactments specified in the Schedule to this Act are hereby repealed to the extent mentioned in the third column of the said Schedule.
I move amendment 27:
Section 36. To delete the section and to substitute the following new section therefor:—
"36. The Betting Act, 1926 (No. 38 of 1926), so far as unrepealed, is hereby repealed."
This is by far the most important of the amendments I have moved because the Bill seeks to do what neither the Joint Committee nor anybody else except the representative of the bookmakers has sought. The Bill proposes to repeal the Ready Money Football Betting Act, 1920. It is important to have some regard to the facts in this matter because there is a general view that the repeal of this Act legalises a thing that is at present illegal. That is to say, it is believed that the Ready Money Football Betting Act prohibits betting on football matches, but it does nothing of the kind. The Act was passed in 1920 on the initiative of the Football Association. Those who were instrumental in promoting the Bill at the time were not by any means anti-sportsmen. It was stated in the House of Commons at the time that the Bill was presented on behalf of the Football Association. Figures were given regarding the importance of the Association and of the numerous big football clubs that were members of it. It was stated that the directors of the clubs were backing the Bill. But as the mover said "the Bill does not stop betting nor does it stop competitions for which no entrance fee is charged.""But it is intended," he said, "to stop the wholesale issue of coupons which are circulated by more or less reputable bookmakers and others amongst workmen." He said: "One firm is making about £20,000 a year out of those coupons.""Another evil," he said, "is that when some of these bookmakers find that the results of matches do not fit their book they endeavour to arrange that matches may be won or lost to suit them."
The Bill, therefore, was promoted with the object primarily of preventing the publication and circulation of football coupons and of advertisements in respect of those coupons. The Act provides—it is an Act at present operating in this country—"that any person who writes, prints or publishes or knowingly circulates any advertisement, circular or coupon of any ready money football betting business" is liable to a penalty. It defines ready money football betting business as meaning "any business or agency for the making of ready money bets or wagers or for the receipt of any money or valuable things as the consideration for a bet or wager in connection with any football game." It does not prohibit the making of bets in respect of football, but it does prohibit the printing and circularising or advertising of coupons in relation to betting on football matches.
The repeal of this Act would have one main effect—opening the way freely to any person who was concerned in or desired to exploit the gambling propensities of boys and girls, and men and women to do so in regard to the game of football whether in this country or other countries. There was evidence given before the Joint Committee by two or three persons touching this matter. From one point of view the most important evidence was that given by the representative of the Saving Certificates Committee and of the teachers. That witness gave evidence to show that amongst boys and girls at school this practice obtained of buying coupons, filling them up, making bets and getting prizes of 10/- or so. This little habit, the witness showed, was unfortunately associated with horse racing also—that is to say, the coupon dealt upon one side with football matches and, upon the other side, with horse racing, sometimes a tip being given in regard to a race. These small bets, no doubt, could be accumulated and made into a large bet. It may be said that that particular kind of exploitation of the gambling instinct is already prohibited by the Bill, in as much as boys and girls are prevented from entering betting premises and bets of less than 1/- cannot be accepted. But it is quite a simple matter to promote the sale of these coupons amongst youths and maidens—and maidens have to be considered too—under eighteen and for an older person to take the sum realised and make a bet on licensed premises. An objection was raised on this matter before the Committee on Betting by the Turf Accountants' Protection Association. The witness on their behalf said: "In 1920 there was ready money betting on football matches; that was prohibited." In fact, the betting was not prohibited but the circulation of the coupons was prohibited.
Whether the Act is repealed or is left in operation will have no effect whatever upon the legality or illegality of betting on football matches. The same witness pointed out that a great amount of this betting on football matches had relation to games played in England. "I should say," he said, "that 80 per cent. or 90 per cent. of the matches are matches played in England." This witness also said: "As regards the lottery coupons which are sold in shops at 1d., 2d., and 3d., we are entirely in favour of the discontinuance of them. We think they should be suppressed rigorously but that does not affect the bookmaker, because he does not dispose of those coupons or derive any benefit from them." Notwithstanding that evidence of the bookmakers, the simple repeal of this Ready Money Betting Act would open a way for the advertising, circularising and issuing of coupons of any size, of any amount. That, in itself, would be a great calamity. We have just passed a section which will make it illegal—it has been illegal for some time—for persons to make bets with persons whom I may describe as football coupon proprietors, across the water. I understand that even to-day, notwithstanding the existence of this Act, there is a considerable amount of betting with football coupons. That is to say—I take the evidence of this witness—English bookmakers circulate coupons amongst the people of this country and moneys are sent away to these bookmakers. That is illegal already and it will continue to be illegal under this Bill. Apparently what is aimed at by the Bill—whether with design or not, I cannot say—is that coupon betting shall all be done through Irish bookmakers.
I do not think it is desirable to encourage the practice of betting on football matches at all. But I am not proposing to make betting on football matches illegal. I am proposing to continue the Act which makes illegal the circularising, advertising or printing coupons for the purpose of stimulating this practice of betting on football matches. This witness said that 90 per cent. of the betting through coupons took place in respect of English matches. If we remove this restriction, what assurance can we have that the practice will not develop—it already exists to some degree—in regard to Irish matches, and that that system of betting on the results of football matches will not be extended by the advertising, circularising and issuing of coupons in relation to Irish football matches, whether amateur or professional?
To seek the repeal of this Act is, I think, undesirable and unnecessary. It may be said that it has not had the effect of entirely preventing betting on football matches. That may be true; but if we repeal the Act, without substituting anything for it, we will be practically inviting bookmakers and those people who run newspapers directed solely to betting to turn their attention to this country as the happy hunting ground of football betting. I think that would be disastrous from the point of view of the revival of athletics and the maintenance of a good sporting spirit in regard to football. Worse than that, I think it would lead to the development of the betting habit amongst boys who, we desire, should be interested in football and whom we want to preclude from tacking on to their interest in football an interest in betting. I, therefore, move the amendment, which will have the effect of maintaining in existence the Ready Money Football Betting Act.
I find myself practically in entire agreement with the statement made by Senator Johnson. My principal reasons are mainly contained in his last statement—that the repeal of this Act will tend to defeat what we are aiming at in this Bill, the decrease of betting amongst young persons. I had only time to look into the matter this morning and I am not sure that I understand fully all the ramifications that the repeal of this Act would affect. However, Senator Brown, who is, unfortunately, unable to be present to-day, asked me to mention to the House that he went into the matter and that he was strongly of opinion that the repeal of the whole Act went considerably further than was really intended or than was desirable. I do not know what attitude the Minister proposes to take on this amendment—whether he is prepared to accept it or not. If he is not prepared to accept it as it stands, I would urge him—if necessary, on behalf of Senator Brown—to look into the matter very carefully before the Report Stage. It appears that certain evidence was given before the Betting Committee and, so far as one can see, the proposal to repeal this Ready Money Betting Act is an endeavour to meet certain demands made before that Committee. So far as I can gather—I take it that this is Senator Brown's view also—the position can be met without repealing the whole Act and without allowing football coupon advertisements, as you will do if you repeal the whole of the Act. I urge the Minister to look into the matter very carefully.
I support the amendment. I have a distinct recollection of the undesirable state of affairs that existed in Dublin before the Act was passed in 1920. There was one rather amusing incident in connection with it, which fastened the circumstances in my mind. A firm in Dublin had a large staff. The only member of the staff who had a motor car was the manager and he was very proud of it. After a certain time, one young gentleman employed by the firm—he was an apprentice—arrived at his work every morning in a car which was just as good as that of the manager. Inquiry was made and it was found that this young man had been for some time deriving an income of about £1,300 a year out of the business of bookmaking on football coupons. There was nothing, perhaps, very wrong in that, but his method was interesting. He was in the habit of getting a lot of these coupons, sending them down with boys along the quays and to the gateways of factories and selling them for 6d. or 1/- or perhaps more to young people employed in those factories. In that way, he developed quite an enormous business for himself. The coupons were purchased, for the most part, by quite young people. In this Bill, we are setting out to prevent people under eighteen from betting. There is not at all so much danger of their betting upon horse racing as there is of their betting upon football. To the average youth here horse racing is rather a foreign subject. But football is a very intimate subject and, while one of these young fellows could not tell you what won the Derby, he could tell you the respective chances of Notts Forest or Woolwich Arsenal next Saturday. If we bring back the old state of affairs, I think it will be very regrettable. If we give these youths facilities to bet in this way upon football, in which they take a great interest, we will be training them up for betting of a more serious kind later.
Apart from the question of public morality, there is also the effect upon a very fine sport to be considered. As Senator Johnson has said, this Act was introduced at the instance of the Football Association of England. In a matter of this kind, we ought to support the authorities of sport and when we find so strong an opinion held by them we ought to give it weighty consideration.
The law as it stands is pretty well circumvented at present by a large number of bookmakers, and Senator Johnson's amendment would simply have the effect of leaving things as they are. I understand that the law is that there is to be no ready-money betting on football. What takes place is: the bookmaker has a list of clients, with addresses, and he says they are betting on credit. The result is that there are queues of men and young people lined up with their coupons and money, and the bookmakers carry on. There was an abuse of that. Some policemen actually prosecuted—almost persecuted—some of the bookmakers for doing that, and others were allowed to carry on. If the Bill is allowed to remain as it is, it will put them all on the same footing and everything will be open and above board. They will be allowed to carry on. If the amendment that Senator Johnson has proposed is passed it will mean that some bookmakers will be able to circumvent the law.
Although this matter has been discussed to a considerable extent I did not hear from a single person associated with football in connection with it until this morning. Whether as the result of the conversations which Senator Johnson had or not, I got one representation against this provision this morning. As Senator Robinson said, the position is very largely unsatisfactory. The Ready Money Football Betting Act was introduced to deal with English conditions, but I do not think it has succeeded to any large extent in preventing coupon betting. It has caused the coupons to be marked, when printed, "for credit betting only," but that does not deceive anybody. There are many papers which give as much space to news that is really intended to facilitate football betting as they do to horse racing news. Sheets which were at one time racing sheets give as much space in the winter months to football as they give to racing information. I would certainly prefer to wipe out the ready-money football betting business, have the whole thing above board and have whatever betting is being done in the matter done with bookmakers here. It may be that we could devise, even at this stage, some amendment of the law which would render the situation more satisfactory than it is.
There is nothing, as Senator Johnson has said, to prevent anybody from betting on football matches, and there is nothing to prevent anybody betting on the coupon system; what he has to do is to write down the names of the horses himself. As the law stands at present, the bookmaker marks these coupons "To be used for credit bets only," and when cash bets come in he makes the people go back and fill the coupons in their own handwriting. I do not think that that is a satisfactory position at all, especially as you have a certain tendency to drive football betting outside. I do not see that there is anything particularly wrong with the coupon system. I should think that it is less likely to do harm to football than betting directly on a particular team. If there were a big wager on a particular team in the ordinary way, you might have more likelihood of corruption than you have under the coupon system. There is really no reason why we should not allow coupons to be used. There is, perhaps, ground for saying that we should not allow the pushing forward or public distribution of coupons, but rather than allow Senator Johnson's amendment to pass it might be better if the whole matter were allowed to stand over until next stage, when we could see if some amendment could be devised to improve the position.
Senator Johnson could consult with you in the meantime.
Are we to take it that the Minister will consider the framing of an amendment himself?
My view is that neither a simple repeal of the Act nor leaving matters as they are is satisfactory. Something more is required. I am quite willing to withdraw the amendment at this stage with a view to considering what can be done to prevent evils arising—rather than remedying those evils that at present exist—under this system. I would emphasise that it is the stimulation of interest in betting on football matches that I want to prevent. We are licensing betting on horse racing and I do not see why it should not be legal to bet on football matches. In view of public opinion, I would not go so far as to attempt to prohibit the advertising of horse-racing betting, though I would personally like to do it. But I think that public opinion is against the development of the betting habit as applied to football matches, and it is that that I would like to prevent, if possible.
I rise to ask for enlightenment. I do not know what coupon betting is. I think that Senator Johnson might tell us what coupon betting is.
The Senator will find that information in the evidence given before the Committee on Betting.
I can give the Senator a coupon if he so desires.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I should like to have an explanation of what I understood Senator Hooper to say — that this coupon betting enables bets of 1s. and 6d. to be gathered throughout the city. Therefore, we are enabling the law to be violated. I do not think that any explanation has been given of what Senator Hooper said.
The position is that the amendments are withdrawn with a view to having the matter clarified before Report Stage. Senators will then have an opportunity of understanding coupon betting and deciding whether the proposed amendment meets their views or not.
Section 36 agreed to.
Schedule and Title agreed to.
The Seanad went out of Committee.
Bill reported with amendments. Report Stage ordered for Wednesday next.