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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 21 Jun 2001

Vol. 167 No. 6

Horse and Greyhound Racing Bill, 2001: Committee and Remaining Stages.

Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 3 stand part of the Bill."

I know the Minister probably has a few loose ends to tidy up, but can he give an indication on the establishment day?

This section authorises the Minister to appoint a particular day to be known as the establishment day, that is, the day when the IHA is dissolved and the HRI established. The Minister will make the order setting that date whenever the arrangements for the appointment of the new board have been completed after the Bill has been enacted. I will invite the various bodies, owners, breeders and so on – I hope this afternoon – to have their general meeting and submit their nominees. I will then appoint a chairman. Although I cannot guarantee it, realistically I would expect to have the establishment day decided on about the end of next month.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 4 to 8, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 9 stand part of the Bill."

This section is to be welcomed. I hope the Minister will have as many people on the board, particularly those who paved the way, including the Racing Club of Ireland under Kevin Smith and other very good supporters clubs throughout the country. There has been a type of twinning with tracks where groups go on stable visits etc. For instance, Navan would twin with Newbury, or something like that. Does the Minister envisage an extension of that practice? I am aware that tracks undertake research and look for suggestions on improvements that are needed – we probably all do that. Will the Minister take that on board? I wonder if he has further information to give us on the section.

This is the section dealing with the race boards consultative forum. Much debate took place in the Dáil about this and there was a call for the race course to be represented on the board. The Minister is correct in the way he has structured the board, which is now down to 12 members. The only way these bodies can operate effectively is if the boards are not too large.

I have a number of queries with regard to the race course consultative forum. One concerns paragraph (2) which refers to other interest groups. I am not clear as to whether the type of categories represented on the board could be representative within the forum, in other words, that there are people directly involved in the industry who could also be on the forum, or is it just for race course clubs, supporters clubs and the like? I am a little unclear about that.

Paragraph (5) states that the HRI shall have regard to any opinions expressed by the forum on any matter affecting the interests represented by the forum which may be reviewed by the HRI. I am clear about the first part of that but I am not clear about the addition of the phrase "which may be reviewed by the HRI". I am not clear on the import of that and how it would affect matters.

I welcome the fact that the Minister may appoint two members of the forum because it is important that he should be represented. I am aware there are similar models to this within agriculture – I think there is one in the sheep industry and in the horticulture industry. They appear to have worked well within the broader agricultural sector so there is no reason a similar forum in this sector should not work as well as those which have operated more widely in the agricultural sector.

I appreciate the support for the idea of a consultative forum. One member of the IHA was nominated to represent the views of racegoers, of whom there are 1.35 million. However, it was difficult to accommodate all views on the IHA. The idea is that there will be a forum of 12 to 15 people representative of various interests, including jockeys. Surely jockeys are entitled to their views and make a contribution. The same is the case for handlers and sponsors. We are always looking for good sponsors for races. Sponsors have ideas which might be worthwhile taking on board and that is what we have done.

Senator Dardis spoke about syndicates. A syndicate may have 70 members who need to take a driver with them to a particular race meeting. Finding a parking space can be difficult and the group may only have two entry passes. This is no way to treat syndicates.

Racing clubs do a very good job and have an important contribution to make. There are also racecourse supporters' clubs. However, Senator Rory Kiely pointed out that it is difficult to become a member of some of them.

It depends on where the club is.

We will have a word with the people in Patrickswell about accepting an eminent Member of the Upper House. The turnover system will allow the various interests to be represented on the consultative forum and have their opinions taken into account.

Senator Cosgrave referred to twinning. It is a good idea to twin tracks. Some of the clubs might also consider twinning. The Grand Alliance could twin with an alliance in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Some Members of the House of Commons are interested in horse racing. The former Foreign Secretary, who is now Leader of the House, has been known to dabble in horse racing and perhaps we will investigate twinning in this regard.

Senator Dardis referred to section 9(5) which states, "HRI shall have regard to any opinions." This will be the case. In addition, section 9(6) states, "HRI may publish any opinion or report of the Forum." In other words, if the HRI is reviewing some aspect of the industry with a view to change, the consultative forum is entitled to make an input into that process.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 10 to 12, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 13 stand part of the Bill."

I welcome the Minister's statement regarding the chief executive's expression of views on Government policy and so on. This issue was the subject of extensive debate on Committee Stage in the Dáil and, I think, Deputies Dukes and Penrose tabled amendments. Apart from the principle involved, it was unrealistic to expect that the chief executive would not have views which he or she might express in the bar or elsewhere. This issue also concerns the greyhound industry and the Minister is to be commended on improving the Bill in this manner.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 14 to 17, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 18 stand part of the Bill."

I am interested in this section. I welcome its provisions regarding refreshments and newspapers. Tote facilities will be available in licensed betting shops. Will the tote be opening new shops or will these facilities be available in existing betting shops? What discussions have taken place in this regard or will particular chains provide – or not provide – these facilities?

Some areas will have a greater choice of machines. The Minister stated that one could place a bet on the pari-mutuel in a shop in Dublin. Will he clarify the situation regarding betting shops in the context of this section?

Under section 19 of the Betting Act, 1931, activities in bookmakers' licensed premises were very restricted. These shops were dingy places into which one stole, placed one's bet and made one's exit. However, today people are entitled to various services, including betting services. They will now be entitled to enter a betting shop which will provide seating accommodation, newspapers, sporting media and non-alcoholic beverages.

Tote terminals will be provided only in existing licensed betting shops, but the terminals will still be owned and controlled by Tote Ireland. This is an additional facility which existing betting shops will allow. This will mean that when one is in a betting shop, one can bet in the normal way with one's bookmaker or place a bet on the tote. This will be particularly relevant regarding the co-mingling of tote internationally. One will be able to place a tote bet in one's local shop and the revenue will go back into the industry.

Has agreement been reached with the existing chains, or is consultation taking place?

Yes, much consultation has taken place and agreement reached. This issue is relevant to establishment day. Immediately after establishment day we would hope to have a day out at which we will place the first 50p bet on a tote outlet in a bookmaker's shop.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 19 to 27, inclusive, agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment and received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I repeat my thanks and appreciation for the keen interest and honest and knowledgeable contributions of Senators. There is a large measure of agreement regarding these proposals. I congratulate all concerned in the State bodies, the Turf Club, the chairmen and staff of existing bodies, the racecourses, greyhound tracks and all who contributed to this legislation. There was much commitment, sincerity and dedication involved and I pay tribute to everyone concerned.

I express my appreciation to this House for agreeing to take all Stages of the legislation today. The Bill will now go to the President for signature. I will seek, as soon as possible, to get the various nominating bodies to submit their nominations and I will appoint a chairperson. We will then see vibrant and healthy horse and greyhound racing industries developing well into the new millennium.

I support what the Minister has said and wish the new body well in the development of the horse and greyhound racing industries. Hopefully they will both go from strength to strength.

I join Senator Cosgrave in thanking the Minister for the way in which he has conducted the Bill through the House. I also thank his officials and join Senator Cosgrave in hoping that the Bill, when enacted, will have the desired effect in allowing the horse and greyhound racing industries to go from strength to strength.

I wish to be associated with the remarks of Senators Cosgrave and Dardis. I thank the Minister for the way in which he introduced the legislation which will definitely be for the betterment of the horse and greyhound racing industries. I wish the Minister every success with the operation of the legislation, once enacted.

Question put and agreed to.