The proposed new section is really intended to place the position of the betting houses in the position they would have been in were we only simply licensing places and persons instead of allowing them illegally to conduct their business on the streets. The clearly expressed intention of the Minister, and I think of the Oireachtas, was that the change to be made was a change from street betting, where the practice could not be controlled, to the licensing of betting in houses where the practice could be controlled. It was not designed to increase the number of bets with a view to assisting the Exchequer. I do not know whether the Minister intended that the change from unlicensed illegal betting to betting in a licensed house was intended to give freedom to advertise the fact that bets could be taken in a particular house. I think I am right in saying that there was no such expressed intention when the original Act was going through. But what will happen if the Bill passes in its present form is that all restrictions upon advertising which were contained in the previous Betting Acts will be removed in respect to licensed houses.
A combination of the provisions in the 1853 Act and the 1874 Act is embodied in this new section. Section 7 of the Act of 1853 provided that "any person exhibiting or publishing or causing to be exhibited or published any placard, handbill, card, writing, sign, or advertisement whereby it shall be made to appear that any house, office or room or place is kept open or used for the purposes of making bets or wagers," and so on, would on conviction be liable to the penalties set out in the section. That was extended in the 1874 Act to a person advertising that he was willing to give information regarding bets or to act as a commission agent in regard to bets or that he was prepared to invite any person to make or take a share in a bet or wager. The law then was that it was illegal for a man to advertise that he had a place at which to take bets. We altered that and attempted to transfer betting on the street to betting in houses, the houses to be licensed as well as the persons taking bets. I submit that we did not deliberately intend to leave it open to the bookmaker to advertise the fact that he was prepared to lay odds on or against in a house. There was no suggestion that there should be an advertising or publicity campaign in respect to betting houses.
Though that was not the intention, at any rate it is a fact that it is no longer an offence for a licensed bookmaker to advertise the fact that he is prepared to bet at his particular premises. It is no longer an offence for him to issue circulars and send out advertisements, in the way that shopkeepers send out advertisements for sales, saying that he is prepared to make bets at a particular place on a particular race. That is no longer illegal because we have enacted that the Betting Houses Acts shall not apply to registered premises, and it is in those Acts that the prohibition as to the advertising and circularising of betting houses is contained. If we do not put in a provision such as this then that will no longer be an illegal thing. Since the 1930 Act it is not an offence for a bookmaker to advertise widely and in any manner he wishes the fact that he is prepared to make bets in particular premises.
The object of the new section is to make it an offence for a betting-man to advertise the fact that he is prepared to make bets in particular premises. If we only intended, and I think that is what the House understood, to transfer the practice of betting from the street to licensed premises, then we should insert some such clause as this in the Bill. If we now desire to go further and say that not only shall a man be free to bet, but that he shall be free to advertise in any way he wishes, through the newspapers, the post, by circular, or with a placard on a hoarding, that he in his particular premises which are licensed is prepared to take bets, and that he is free to do it, and if we go further and extend, as the Minister suggests, the licensing charges, by that means reducing the number of licensed premises, the corollary is and will be that the better off and richer bookmakers will use these advertising facilities not merely to attract such bets to come to their premises, but to stimulate the practice of betting. The idea of this prohibition that I am seeking to insert is to limit the stimulus to bet, to restrict, as far as possible, advertising or publicity methods in connection with betting-houses.
Mr. Comyn rose.