Betting (Amendment) Bill 2013: Second Stage

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The Betting (Amendment) Bill 2013 is designed to provide a regulatory system for remote bookmakers and betting intermediaries, otherwise known as betting exchanges, offering betting services in Ireland, regardless of their location. In addition, it provides for fair and equal treatment of all bookmakers, traditional and remote, and betting exchanges offering services in Ireland.

Provision was made in the Finance Act 2011 for the taxation of remote bookmakers and betting exchanges, subject to a ministerial commencement order. The Bill seeks to bring all remote bookmakers and betting intermediaries into the licensing and taxation regime. The new licensing system for remote operators will serve the public interest in preventing crime and protecting consumers against fraud. It will ensure all businesses offering betting services from Ireland or to persons in Ireland are treated equally and regulated appropriately. The Bill amends the Betting Act 1931 for this purpose and contains the existing provisions governing the licensing of bookmakers.

Members will be aware that the Bill, as published in the Dáil last July, made it unlawful for a person other than a licensed operator to act as a bookmaker or betting intermediary. The Minister for Justice and Equality was tasked with compliance in respect of remote operators. Where an unlicensed remote operator engaged with punters in this jurisdiction, the Bill provided that the Minister for Justice and Equality would issue a notice to that individual or company to cease activity. A person who contravened the terms of such a notice would be guilty of an offence, with proceedings being brought and prosecuted by the Minister for Justice and Equality in respect of remote operators. The Bill, as published, provided that the Minister for Justice and Equality could apply to the District Court for an order directing service providers, including financial institutions, advertisers and Internet service providers, not to provide services for specified unlicensed operators. In the course of the Committee Stage deliberations in the Dáil I brought forward several amendments providing for the temporary assignment of responsibility for enforcement against unlicensed remote operators from the Minister for Justice and Equality to the Revenue Commissioners, pending the establishment of the gambling regulator under the proposed gambling control legislation. The Minister for Justice and Equality and the Garda will retain responsibility for compliance with all other regulatory requirements under the Betting Acts. In this context, Revenue will operate a new model for enforcing licence compliance by unlicensed remote operators. The model will operate as follows. Where an unlicensed operator is accepting bets or commission for betting exchange services from persons within the State, Revenue will issue notice to that operator of the need to become properly licensed or cease to provide these services in the State. Should an operator contravene a requirement of this notice the operator will have committed an offence and Revenue will take action to prosecute and prevent that operator carrying on business in the State.

Given the practical considerations associated with prosecuting unlicensed operators located outside the State, the Bill enables Revenue to take effective action to prevent unlicensed operators carrying on business in the State. Where a remote operator fails to comply with a Revenue notice to become licensed or cease offering services in the State, Revenue may issue a compliance notice to Internet service providers, advertisers or persons promoting products in the State prohibiting them from providing services for the unlicensed remote operator concerned. The service providers may appeal a compliance notice to the District Court which will either affirm the notice or direct Revenue to withdraw it. A person who fails to comply with a notice by the specified date shall be guilty of an offence.

Given the complex way in which the international debit and credit card payment system works, the most effective way of preventing unlicensed operators from receiving payments from consumers in the State is to work with the international payment services industry. In an approach similar to that taken in the United Kingdom, Revenue proposes to enter into voluntary arrangements under which the international payment service providers will take action to prevent operators from using their payment systems to carry on illegal betting operations in the State. Banking and Payments Federation Ireland has indicated its commitment in principle to concluding an agreement with Revenue for this purpose. Action to prevent Internet access by unlicensed operators to Irish consumers and prevent unlicensed operators from advertising here and using credit card payment systems for accepting payments from Irish consumers provides effective tools for enforcing compliance by remote operators carrying on business in the State.

I believe the main operators in the Irish market will comply with the law and welcome the opportunity to become licensed in order that they can continue to do business here. Operators who do not wish to become licensed in Ireland can voluntarily block communications and transactions with Irish consumers and most are expected to do so to avoid Revenue enforcement action, which would risk reputational damage to the operator in the eyes of gambling regulators in other jurisdictions. Illicit operators on the margins of the market are unlikely to attract a high level of business from Irish consumers in view of the perceived risk that they will fail to pay out on winning bets.

The proposed compliance model provides the most practicable and effective approach, given the inherent difficulties in dealing with persons operating largely outside the reach of the State.

The compliance model proposed provides the most practicable and effective approach, given the inherent difficulties in dealing with persons operating largely outside the reach of the State.

A further amendment was made to take account of changes included in the Finance (No. 2) Act 2013 whereby the excise duty payable for a licence reflected the increase in the period of licence validity from one to two years and the provision for payment of the excise fee in two instalments. Further technical amendments were also included to update certain definitions. Many Senators will take the opportunity provided by the Bill to discuss the rate of duty applicable to betting services. However, the Betting (Amendment) Bill does not provide for the issue of rates, as this is more appropriate to the Finance Bill, nor does the Bill deal with the funding of the horse and greyhound industry, which is primarily a matter for my colleagues the Ministers for Public Expenditure and Reform and Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The Betting (Amendment) Bill 2013 represents the first part in the regulation of the betting and gambling sector. My colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality, will publish the gambling control Bill in mid-2015, which will provide the regulatory framework for the wider gambling sector. I propose to bring forward on Committee Stage a number of minor amendments to the Bill, mainly of a technical nature. I will also give consideration to any constructive suggestions put forward during the debate. I commend the Bill to the House and look forward to a stimulating debate.

I am not sure how stimulating the debate will be, but we will do our best. I very much welcome the Bill and we will support it. As the Leader will attest, I have raised the matter and queried the Bill's progress over the past two years. It has a number of very important aspects, not least the levelling of the playing pitch for bricks-and-mortar operators in towns and villages all over the country that have suffered due to the fact that the online market has not been subject to tax. It has been very difficult for them to compete in the market, particularly the independent bookmakers, the number of which have reduced not just during the Minister's tenure but over successive years. From time to time, I have a bet, generally unsuccessfully; we need competition in the market. Our bookmakers are significant employers and I would rather people availed of bookmakers where there are professional staff who can, to a degree, control the level of bets by the people betting in their shops.

The Minister’s mention of the gambling control Bill was important. Could the Minister outline the timeframe for the Bill? I welcome the extension of opening hours and the end of the Easter Sunday closure, which made no sense given that it was a major racing day. When races took place after 6.30 p.m. people could not place bets in their local shops but could bet on anything online. The industry is very important. Bookmakers such as Paddy Power and Ladbrokes employ significant numbers of people. In his summation, perhaps the Minister could say how quickly the EU Commission’s queries here, particularly on border controls and operators outside Ireland offering their services in Ireland, can be answered, allowing us to proceed with Committee Stage and pass the Bill. What is the Minister’s timeframe for passing this legislation? We must consider passing it well in advance of the end of the year, if possible.

The horse racing and greyhound racing industries are very important in Ireland. Horse racing supports more than 15,000 people. With the additional revenue the State will raise by taxing online betting I hope we are not considering a full reduction in the Government’s subvention to those industries by the same amount. What is the Government’s plan in that regard? Ireland is one of the premium countries in horse racing and breeding and could consider further investment. Has the Government decided whether it will reduce the subvention by the amount raised in tax?

As I understand the Bill, some online betting would still be exempt, namely, the online casinos, poker and bingo, which are extremely popular. This is where the gambling control Bill will come in. It is a difficult part of the industry to grapple with and I wonder what the logic is in excluding it. Does the Government have plans to examine this sector of the market where significant bets are laid? The sector is increasing in popularity and is being advertised very heavily on television. I understand opening hours will be from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Will there be any restriction on this? Will it apply only when Irish horse racing is happening or will it extend to greyhound racing? If there is no restriction in that regard, it would be very useful.

I would be particularly interested to understand where the Bill sits with Europe, whether the Minister foresees any impediments in that regard and how quickly we can get the legislation through. I very much welcome the fact that the passing of the legislation will level the playing pitch and, hopefully, enable our main street and independent operators to compete with some of the larger online companies for deals they are giving. It has been incredibly difficult for people. I will await the Minister’s response on those issues. My group will consider tabling amendments on Committee Stage. I thank the Minister for his attendance.

I welcome the Minister and I welcome the Betting (Amendment) Bill 2013, which will provide a regulatory system for betting exchanges offering betting services in Ireland regardless of their location. The measures in the Bill are long overdue. For far too long, there was not a level playing field and, hopefully, the Bill will provide fair and equal treatment for all bookmakers in Ireland, traditional and remote, as well as betting exchanges offering services in Ireland.

As the Minister stated, the Bill brings all remote bookmakers and betting intermediaries into the licensing and taxation regime which operates in this country. It is important that the new licensing system comes into operation as soon as possible, as it will assist in preventing crime and protecting consumers against fraud. It will also ensure all businesses offering betting services from Ireland or to a person in Ireland are treated equally and regulated appropriately, which has not been the case for many years. The fact that the Bill is to amend the Betting Act 1931 highlights how out of date the current betting laws are. I presume any objections or outstanding complaints from individuals against any company seeking a licence to operate will be thoroughly investigated by the appropriate authorities before a licence is granted. It is important that the voices of customers who may have disputes with operators are listened to.

If this does not happen, licences to operate in Ireland should not be granted.

The criteria relating to certificates of personal fitness to hold a licence should also be very stringent. I am satisfied that, in the context of the powers of the Garda, the Minister and the Revenue Commissioners, the provisions contained in the Bill deal adequately with this issue. I am of the view, however, that the position should be monitored on a regular basis. The current system of inspecting premises operated by the Revenue Commissioners or whomever is less than satisfactory. On previous occasions I have referred to the fact that some bookmakers have gaming machines installed on their premises, a practice which I believe to be illegal. I am of the view that the law in this area is being openly and brazenly flouted by some betting chains. I hope that the practice of turning a blind eye that appears to obtain at present will be brought to an end as a matter of urgency. The machines to which I refer are highly addictive and we have all witnessed the damage they can cause. No one - whether it be the Garda, the Revenue Commissioners or local authorities - is assuming responsibility in respect of this flagrant abuse of the law. This matter has been allowed to fall between a number of stools and there is a need for the Minister or his appropriate colleague in Cabinet to act. Regardless of whether responsibility lies with the Department of Finance, the Department of Justice and Equality or the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, the current situation should not be allowed to continue.

I have grave concerns with regard to section 25 of the Bill, under which provision is made to allow bookmakers to open their premises from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. all year round. That is a disgrace. An opening time of 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. would be sufficient and I certainly have a problem with one of 7 a.m. What is wrong with closing betting shops when the last horse race held in Ireland or the UK on a particular day has concluded? Extending closing time to 10 p.m. all year round is wrong, and I am concerned about this development. Consideration must be given to the views of staff, who in the main are, I understand, completely opposed to these new proposals. Will the all-year-round provision mean that shops may open on Good Friday? As the previous speaker mentioned, the ban on betting shops opening on Easter Sunday is being lifted, and I agree with this change.

The Bill does not deal with the rate of duty imposed in respect of betting services. I urge the Minister to begin with a minimum levy of no less than 2% on turnover. It has been suggested that the levy might be as low as 1%, which would be derisory as far as I am concerned. That is a matter for another day, however, and, as the Minister indicated, it is probably more appropriate to deal with it in the context of the finance Bill.

The use of credit cards to place bets should be monitored and the amount of money a person can wager via his or her credit card each day should be limited. People who use online betting exchanges should be aware that their accounts are monitored by the banks and that some individuals have been refused approval for mortgages and loans as a result of their betting activities.

There is an anomaly in the existing law whereby children can openly bet on the State-sponsored tote. One must be over 18 years of age in order to place a bet with an on-course bookmaker, enter a bookie's office or buy a lottery ticket, but we still allow children to bet on the tote. We must grasp the nettle and address this anomaly. The significant contradiction whereby people must be over 18 in order to place bets with bookmakers while children continue to be allowed to bet on the tote cannot be allowed to remain. This is obviously a matter to be dealt with in the context of the gambling control Bill, but that will not stop me continuing to mention it in the House. I have corresponded with the Minister for Justice and Equality on this issue. Horse Racing Ireland and, in particular, Bord na gCon would resist such a change because they believe in bringing young people into the system as soon as possible. I am aware of many cases in which an early introduction to gambling has led to addiction and all of the horrendous and well-documented problems associated therewith. As already stated, this matter is probably more appropriate to the gambling control Bill. However, I feel passionately about it and introduced a Private Member's Bill in respect of it when in opposition.

I welcome the Bill, which is long overdue. I compliment Deputy Stanton and the committee he chairs for the time they devoted to considering the Bill. I am of the view that the legislation was improved as it passed through the Lower House. This is another good example of how well the Oireachtas committee system can work. I wish the Minister well in his work. I understand the European Commission has some further observations to make on the Bill and its provisions before the House proceeds to Committee Stage, which will probably happen at the end of next month. I hope that any problems can be resolved without undue delay and that we can implement the provisions, particularly those relating to online betting, at the earliest possible opportunity.

I too welcome this much-anticipated Bill, for which we have all been keeping an eye out since becoming Members of the Seanad in 2011. The legislation is much needed by the betting sector. I appreciate the work done in respect of it by the Minister, his Department and the relevant Oireachtas committee during the long process of redrafting. I understand the Bill had to be referred to Europe for a technical ratification holiday for a period of three months. I hope it enjoyed its trip.

The racehorse, greyhound and horse-breeding industries are all interconnected with the Bill. Said industries are worth €1 billion to the country and they employ up to 16,000 people in rural areas. Up to five or six years ago, 20,000 people had jobs in the sectors in question. With the proper investment we can ensure that employment will increase to its previous level.

The horse-breeding industry, from top to bottom, produces results which ensure that Ireland remains at the very top of the global league. This country is, in fact, a disproportionately major global player in terms of horse racing and breeding. There is extraordinary competition from the Middle East, Japan, Europe, the USA and Australasia. If we are to maintain and build on the natural skills and bloodlines of our thoroughbreds, then we must invest. We need to protect the jobs of the wonderfully talented people in the industry - these jobs are all located in rural areas - and ensure that they are passed on to future generations.

Betting turnover has increased from €1.3 billion to €4.5 billion, according to the Indecon report, which also indicates that tax revenue fell from €68 million to €27 million in 2011. When replying, will the Minister outline his thoughts on and plans for a timeframe in the context of increasing the betting levy? I accept that the Bill does not deal with this matter, but it is difficult to pass up the opportunity to refer to it. The levy currently stands at 1%. As far as I am aware, that is the lowest in the world. The levy in Germany is 5%, in the UK it is 2.8%, in Italy it is 3.8%, in Japan it is 17.8%, in France, which invests an enormous amount of funding into its racing industry - Irish horses beat French ones all the time - it is 15.5%, and in Spain it is 7%. The alliance for racing and breeding made representations to me last week and indicated that while it welcomes the Betting (Amendment) Bill, it is of the view that the latter is only a halfway house for the industry.

We need to get the Bill through the House and we need to get the rate increased in this October's budget. I am interested to know what is lying in the back of the Minister's brain cells. This industry does not want to be reliant on handouts from the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. In every other country in the world the betting revenue produced is returned as investment in the industry. That is what we are trying to achieve. The horse racing industry is a personal passion of mine. We have the natural skills and resources to be one of the best players in the world, but the industry is hellishly competitive on a global scale.

I appreciate that the Minister is attempting to produce a level playing field for everyone in the betting industry. Many small bookmakers are not fighting the same fight as the large bookmakers, which have offshore and online betting facilities. We all welcome this Bill as a means of levelling the playing field. Many of the bookmakers who provide a service in small towns in rural areas have gone out of business. Punters must pay to enter a dog or race meeting. I ask if the same levy or taxes should be applied to on-course bookmakers as to online bookmakers.

I welcome the comments of other Senators about the gambling control Bill, which cannot come soon enough. Discussion of betting must include a conversation about the problems associated with gambling. I refer to the harm done to society by gambling addiction and the social problems it causes. I hope that when the Bill is passed and the moneys start to come in from online betting, a portion will be devoted to treatment for and education about gambling addiction.

I am no expert on the gambling industry but I initially approached this Bill from a fiscal perspective. I thank the alliance for racing and breeding, which sent me a copy of their strategy for budget 2015 and a document on the taxing of betting in Ireland. This provided me with an insight I did not previously have on the issue of gambling in Ireland.

The submission illustrates from a fiscal perspective that Ireland is collecting less betting duty today than was collected in 1990. In 2001, when the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund was established by law, betting duty of €67.8 million was collected. I find it amazing that any tax on an industry that has grown substantially since 1990 could possibly be raising less revenue today than it did 24 years ago. That decline is attributable to the reduction in the rate of duty - which at one stage was 20% - to 1% and the fact that the betting industry has migrated from the mainstream betting shops, which some of my colleagues have already spoken about very eloquently, to telephone and online channels operating from offshore havens where no tax is payable.

This is a taxation issue in more than one area. I am surprised that it has taken so long, because the Internet did not arrive on our shores in the past 18 or 36 months; this is an ongoing issue which affects not just betting but many other transactions in which a product is bought overseas and brought into this country with no tax on the transaction. I note that the economic downturn since 2007 has taken its toll on discretionary consumer spending generally, which has affected this industry as well as many others.

I refer to some relevant points. Race course attendances have declined from their peak of 1.5 million in 2007 to about 1.24 million, but they are still equivalent to the total combined attendance at all the GAA hurling and football championship matches. This was a shock to me. These figures show that this is a very important issue and that the duty and taxation collected is very important.

The Minister of State and some of us in the House will be aware of the fact that despite intense promotion by the bookmakers of alternative media for gambling, including football, cricket and political contests, horse racing remains by far the favourite vehicle for betting. The Minister of State said that the issue of the rate of tax was not a matter for this piece of legislation but, as other Senators have said, it is a matter that needs to be addressed.

The executive summary of the report on betting taxation includes what I call fudges. It is known that the off-course betting duty of 1% is the lowest of any racing country but there is no correlation between the rate of tax imposed on betting and the support for the industry. There is a general consensus among the Minister of State and previous Ministers for Finance that nobody likes a tax that is specifically earmarked for any particular function but, given the importance of the horse and greyhound racing industries, it is important to link A with B and to put in place some system to ensure investment in the industry is in some way related to the tax that is gathered from that industry.

I was very impressed by the argument and cogent justification put forward by the industry advocating for, at the very least, a 2% rate of tax and linking it to the levels that would be imposed and a VAT rate of 23%, comparable with other consumer expenditures. It is estimated that the rate would need to be between 3% and 4% versus the 1% currently charged. I make these comments on foot of my interest in enhancing the revenue for services and not just for the promotion of an industry that is clearly very important to the economy in that it attracts foreign direct investment in the horse racing and bloodstock industries. It is an important tourist attraction and it contributes to the overall moneys available to the Exchequer to provide other services such as medical and housing services.

I welcome the legislation, which is a step in the right direction. Some issues have been raised about opening hours, and I share the concerns of my colleague Senator Maurice Cummins. The Bill will create a new source of revenue for this country. The Bill provides for consumer protection against fraud and it provides some degree of regulatory certainty, which has been lacking. It must be backed by effective sanctions and the proof of the pudding will be in the effectiveness of those sanctions. There needs to be some correlation, if not a direct one, between the duty imposed and the financing of the horse and greyhound racing sectors in order to provide more tourism revenue to the country.

I do not believe that different sectors of the economy should be subjected to differing rates of tax, whether that be corporation tax, VAT or other excise duties. Different sectors of this economy which have been favoured to some extent should not be treated in a different way from other sectors, and achieving this is long overdue.

I have a concern about the provisions relating to summary conviction for engaging in a betting transaction with a person under the age of 18 years, in which it is a defence to say that it was believed that the person was over 18 years because the person ticked a box to state that he or she was over 18 years. That is a difficulty with the Bill and it will be a difficulty with regard to protecting young people from engaging in gambling. The Bill's provisions will be difficult to enforce, in my view, given the vastness of the Internet and the jurisdictional issues. I reiterate that there needs to be strong enforcement of this Bill.

I am very much of the view, recently enunciated by the OECD, that in order to protect the global economy and provide a level playing field we must close down tax avoidance loopholes. This country must be diligent in that respect.

I will conclude by quoting from an article in the Irish Independent last January by William Hill, who described a call centre in Ireland, a bookmaking operation in Antigua, an account in the Isle of Man, and odds setting and risk management in Leeds, all of which were linked together. I know it is not related to this Bill, but we should target the advertising of online betting in the same way that we have banned advertising in other areas, particularly for cigarettes. Allowing the advertising of online betting encourages impulse gambling. Mr. Declan Lynch, the author of Free Money, has claimed that throughout history there has never been another invention that has so suited addiction. It is more likely to affect young people who spend huge amounts of their time online. I will leave the Minister with that thought and ask him to give it some attention.

I welcome the important legislation before the House, which closes an effective tax avoidance loophole used by the offshore and online gambling sectors. Those sectors currently account for a large proportion of all gambling revenues within the State. The horse racing and greyhound sectors are very important for the economy, jobs, inward investment and our reputation abroad.

This year the Horse and Greyhound Fund is valued at around €54 million, but only 47% of that is being raised through the betting tax. That means that taxpayers are effectively providing the other 53% this year, which I think is wrong. The industry's representatives have appeared before a number of Oireachtas committees. Both the horse racing and greyhound sectors have indicated that they would like to see the industry being self-financed, either through the extension proposed in the Bill or an increase in taxation rates.

This welcome Bill brings with it a great opportunity. I want to see online and offshore gambling being taxed. It is important that this be done. Anecdotal figures and replies to parliamentary questions indicate that such a tax at 1% would raise enough money to make the industry self-financing, thus lifting the burden from taxpayers. There are questions concerning where the money would go once it was raised and whether it would be levied at 1% or 2%. I would favour 2% as a minimum. Some of the money raised should also be spent on animal welfare for aged horses and greyhounds.

Other sports should also be examined in this regard, because betting is not exclusive to horses or greyhound racing. Bets were placed on the Donegal versus Kerry game at the weekend and a taxation level applies there as well. A self-financing model should be established and this Bill presents the opportunity to do so. We should consider increasing the level from 1% to 2% or 3%. Some of that money could then be ring-fenced for animal welfare. Another portion of the money could also be ring-fenced for the Irish Sports Council to develop participation in sport. An epidemic of obesity is affecting young people in our country at the moment, so this is a golden opportunity to fund the Irish Sports Council properly.

The Irish horse racing industry, which employs 15,000 people, is currently suffering and has seen 4,000 jobs lost since 2008. I understand that Ireland is the only major horse racing nation that does not provide funding for the thoroughbred industry in the form of automatic direct payments. That matter should also be examined.

The industry is a hugely valuable one. One has only to look at the excellent facilities around the country to appreciate that. However, taxation raised on betting since 2001 has fallen by 50%. On the other hand, the volume of money gambled has increased fourfold in the same period, so there is something wrong which needs to be addressed in this Bill.

The extension is welcome and the Minister is doing exactly the right thing. The promise was made and is now being fulfilled. However, the Minister needs to consider increasing the 1% levy to 2% or 3% and using the money as I have outlined. Nobody placing a €5 or €10 bet would mind 1% or 2% of that going towards the racing industry or sport in general. If members of the public are having a punt I am sure they would not mind that.

While race track opening hours may have consequences, there are no closing times for online betting. People in Ireland can effectively bet online throughout the night on horse races anywhere in the world. Bookmakers, meanwhile, deserve a break because they are paying rates. The opening hours proposal is a positive thing, but controls should be introduced in the new gambling Bill, which I hope will come before us shortly.

As other speakers have said, this Bill is certainly welcome. It has been a long time coming. I will not go over ground already covered by other contributors, but the sooner the gambling control Bill comes before us the better. I have to be blunt in saying that online betting, poker and casinos are doing terrible damage to young males in particular. There is a considerable amount of gambling addiction under the surface, and analysis of the data has been insufficient to gauge the extent of its impact on the public.

The Department of Finance hates the idea of any moneys being ring-fenced; it wants all the money to come into the general coffers to be reallocated. However, some of these moneys should be ring-fenced, as with the drink and tobacco industries, to help people with addiction problems. We should examine that matter either in this Bill or in subsequent legislation.

I do not consider myself to be a stick-in-the-mud by any manner or means, but we should seek to bar under-18s from gambling premises. My experience is that anything goes in betting shops. I have seen children in betting shops all around the country and it is not good enough.

I do not agree with the extension of the opening hours of betting shops from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. I realise that online betting is available 24-7 but that does not mean that we should open up all the betting shops on every main street. It will not have any beneficial impact on those who participate in the industry.

The betting world has expanded. A recent report showed that the largest political bets placed anywhere were on last week's referendum on Scottish independence.

The US presidential election was not in the same league.

The betting world is expanding into other areas and sectors outside the areas in which we do very well in this country - greyhound and horse racing. Virtual racing should be banned, although I know that this Bill is probably not the legislative vehicle in which that should be done. I have a real problem with virtual racing. One might as well throw all of the chips in the air and declare whoever catches the lucky one to be the winner because that is what it is like and it is something we should exclude. We have heard that there is chicanery in cricket, greyhound racing and horse racing. I am not particularly concerned for the person. I do not believe set opening hours are required, but under-age requirements should be stiffer and we should get rid of virtual gambling, with which I have a difficulty.

I welcome the Minister. In the ballroom of romance that is the Oireachtas it is nice to see him do a dance with us in the Seanad, even with the untouchables like me in Sinn Féin.

We will dance with anyone.

We are happy to see the Bill reach the Seanad and my party supports it. Most people will be surprised to learn that the State does not receive money from online gambling and the Bill rightly corrects this. We, therefore, support the move.

The debate in the Dáil on the Bill opened up a debate on the wider issues of taxation and gambling. For example, even though the legislation is entitled the Betting Bill, its scope does not include casinos or other forms of gambling. The debate also threw up some interesting facts about how much the horse racing and greyhound industries had moved from being, effectively, self-financing through the betting levy to being very dependent on a State top-up. The question has been raised about how fair it is for the horse racing and greyhound racing industries to benefit from a levy on betting on all sports. These are questions for another day, but we should not shy away from discussing them at some point.

The most important element of the Bill has been discussed by others. I refer to bringing online bookies and betting exchanges into the tax net. As others and I have said, this measure is long overdue and will help to level the playing field between online services and on-street bookies.

The greyhound and horse racing industries are two of the mainstays of the rural economy because stables hire hundreds of people in areas which are otherwise bereft of employment opportunities. One of the first jobs my mother and her brothers had was in their local stables. The tourism, cultural and economic benefits from having one of the best racing industries in the world are difficult to underestimate and it is our job to make sure the industry is sustainable. Bookies throughout the State are also important employers and deserve to have a level playing field on which to compete with online bookies and betting exchanges.

As mentioned by other Senators, we must recognise that gambling can be a damaging activity. Addiction and its impact on society are factors we cannot forget when discussing the Bill. I do not think the HSE has a specific treatment programme for gambling addicts. Therefore, it would make sense to ring-fence part of the revenue generated from betting duty to treat a gambling addiction and make sure its effects are prevented in society.

I raise an issue that was brought to my attention by an independent rural bookmaker. I refer to the fee for a remote bookmaker's licence which was obviously intended as a way of charging large online providers. The Bill, as drafted, will have a negative impact on small independent bookmakers who carry on part of their business on the telephone. There should be scope for leeway in this regard.

We are approaching budget time and Sinn Féin calls for a 3% increase in betting duty. We do so because we believe the increase, accompanied by the revenue raised in taxing online bookies and betting exchanges, will go a long way towards restoring the link between revenue from betting duty and funding for the horse racing and greyhound racing industries.

I express my appreciation of the Minister's open engagement with my Dáil colleagues on the Bill and his openness to considering our amendments. We support the Bill and look forward to further engagement with the Minister on Committee and Report Stages.

I welcome the Minister and this very important legislation. It was an open goal that citizens and the country should have been scoring for a long time in terms of collecting money from online gambling. As has been pointed out, traditional bookie shops pay rates, taxes and everything else. Just because technology has advanced does not mean that the people who have embraced that technology - I will not name any particular organisation, but we all know who they are - also do not have a responsibility to contribute to society. The money collected in taxes on online gambling will go towards providing support and treatment for those with a gambling addiction. The organisations involved have a responsibility to fund the taxpayer who funds these programmes and from that perspective the measure is very welcome.

I was very happy, as a member of the justice committee, to engage substantially on the report we were asked to compile by the then Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Alan Shatter, on the issue of gambling. A number of very interesting points arose during our engagement with the various stakeholders involved, one of which was that online gambling was not taxed, an aspect that will now be remedied, thankfully.

My colleague, Senator Michael D'Arcy, spoke about virtual gambling. I support his call for a complete ban because it has no place in a civilised society. I disagree with having a computer located in the heart of London, for example, generating hobby horse races. I did not even know there was such a thing until the hearings of the justice committee took place. When I carried out my own research, I discovered how ridiculous the races were. It is like giving free drink to an alcoholic in order to attract him or her; the situation is similar in the case of virtual poker games. I suggest that, owing to the damage virtual gambling does, we look at banning it.

In the case of traditional bookie offices, we need stricter criteria and more fines for allowing young people to frequent such premises because they will be sucked in by the culture of gambling. Just because young people are not placing a bet does not mean that they will be unharmed. In fact, they should be not on the premises in the first place.

Another issue concerns uncollected winnings. It appears that bookies make substantial money when there are uncollected winnings and even more when there are non-runners. Apparently, if one places a bet and the horse does not run, one is entitled to get one's money back. A substantial number of people do not realise this or are unaware that the horse on which they placed a bet did not run. They simply check to find out which horse has been placed first, second, third, fourth or fifth and if they do not see the horse on which they have placed a bet among the winners, they dump the docket. A logical suggestion was made at the justice committee meetings that if the money was not collected after 12 months, it should be lodged in a dormant funds account. That would mean that eventually the money would be used for the benefit of the Irish taxpayer when it could easily be ring-fenced to support treatment programmes. It appears that the gambling industry needs to be tidied up. As legislators, we all have a responsibility to tidy it up as much we possibly can. Technology is great but, unfortunately, it facilitates those who have a gambling addiction. This is something for which we must take responsibility. In the case of non-runners, millions of euro is retained by bookie offices the length and breadth of the country. This money should be deposited in a dormant funds account. The same should happen in the case of uncollected winnings after a 12 month period has elapsed. We must find a way to allow the money to be used for the benefit of society.

Unfortunately, gambling now takes place online and has moved underground in a similar fashion to prostitution, a matter which has been spoken about significantly in this House. We have also spoken about the issue of the availability of escorts on line, on which action also needs to be taken.

The main bookmakers and gambling providers in this country wish to have regulation. Many other countries have regulation so it would be a correct step, both ethically and morally, to have it.

Finally, I commend the Leader of the House. When he was opposition in the last Seanad he brought forward legislation on gambling and I am sure he, as a legislator, is happy to see that his efforts were not in vain and that we are seeing progress in the right direction.

I welcome the Minister of State. He is not the type of man I would associate with hanging around the betting offices of Greystones-----

One never knows anyone's secrets.

He could do it online.

-----but being a young man of the modern generation, he probably has a smartphone and has a look at the betting odds on it now and then, perhaps the odds on the next leader of Fine Gael or the like. The Minister is not supposed to bet on himself.

The Minister, Deputy Noonan, said in his opening remarks that we will probably stray beyond the terms of the legislation in this debate, but I wish to refer to a few points made by my colleagues. I appreciate that there is a gambling problem in certain parts of the country and in certain areas of society. This country also has a major alcohol problem but we will not respond to it by shutting every pub or by banning alcohol. The gambling control Bill that is due to be introduced next year will probably help to deal with our gambling problem. It is something we will have to take seriously by putting the supports and structures in place to help people who have a genuine problem. It is an illness, and we should not throw out the baby with the bath water.

Senator Michael D'Arcy referred to the opening hours of betting offices and expressed concern about extending them. I disagree with him. In a sense, people in the open forum of a betting shop, be it at 5 p.m. or 9 p.m., are less likely to engage in excess, as opposed to a person who is at home and using their smartphone or other device to bet electronically. Over the years the traditional bookmaker's office has been a sociable arena and the vast majority of people who have used bookmakers do not bet very large stakes. The bookmakers have been very much a part of our provincial towns, although many of them have closed as Senator Mary Ann O'Brien noted. The legislation is realistic in respect of opening hours. Television coverage of racing in Australia and the United States or of greyhound racing at night will generate betting and revenue generating opportunities for small bookmakers, and I have no difficulty with that.

The Minister advised us that the Finance Bill is the legislation in which he would deal with the 1% levy. I strongly concur with what Senator Mary Ann O'Brien said; she is very knowledgeable on this subject. We must ensure long-term funding for the Irish greyhound and horse racing industries. They are hugely important rural industries that employ thousands of people. While 1% is a start, it is a very modest one. We must move at the earliest opportunity to a 2% levy. Very few sections of society are asking us to increase taxation at present, but people involved in the horse racing industry are asking us to consider an increase in the levy and I hope we will be able to do that at the earliest opportunity. We must secure long-term funding for our horse racing and greyhound industries and I hope the Minister will favourably consider the suggestions he has received from so many sections of society.

Senator Hayden referred to a document she received from an Irish racing group. I received the same correspondence. It was an excellent presentation, particularly for the majority of people in the country who would not have a detailed or thorough knowledge of the industry. When one sees the stark figures regarding the tens of thousands of people employed in the industry, be it in stables, bookmakers' offices, race courses, transport or supply of feed, one realises that it is a very unique industry and an industry in which Ireland holds first place in the world. If there were an Olympics for horse racing, Ireland would win gold, silver and bronze. It is an industry worth protecting, so a funding model must be put in place to ensure its long-term success. Hopefully, we will be able to make progress in that regard in the near future.

Briefly, I welcome the Bill. It was the subject of detailed debate in the other House and I am not sure if we will be able to table amendments here. Presumably, they have already been dealt with. The legislation is necessary and welcome. In conjunction with the gambling control Bill to be introduced next year and, more importantly, progress in respect of an increase in the betting levy to a more realistic and sustainable rate, we will hopefully have put in place a troika of legislation that will be good for the industry, the punter and, from a gambling point of view, good for society.

I thank the Minister, Deputy Noonan, and the Minister of State, Deputy Harris, for attending the House to introduce this important Bill. It is important legislation that will extend the betting levies to remote betting intermediaries and online betting concerns that take bets from Irish customers.

Little did we expect when Tommy Flowers invented the Colossus, the first electronic computer, in World War II to decode the German Nazi Enigma machines that we would today be discussing in this House how betting has changed over the past 50 to 60 years. The Internet has really changed it since it took off in the 1990s. We all know that human beings are very competitive. The first men on earth were always competitive, be it against each other or when watching animals. Betting was always taking place. It is part of human nature to be competitive and to bet on the outcome.

A total of €335 billion is gambled worldwide, so it is a huge industry. We must get the legislation right. In 2009, former Deputy Dermot Ahern, the then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, sought a review of the gaming industry and the current Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, made provision in the Finance Act 2011 to change the betting levies. Approximately €1.6 billion is bet online each year in Ireland. The betting levies have reduced from 33% in the 1990s to 1% in 2010. That is not the subject of the debate today, but it all has a knock-on effect. The Bill will be followed by the forthcoming Finance Bill, which will provide for what the levy will be. It is a means of raising cash for the country. Many of the people involved are making vast profits outside the State. That is the reason we are debating this measure today.

The Bill introduces a new licensing system. There are two new licences, a remote bookmaker's licence for those offering normal bookmaker services by remote means and a remote betting intermediary's licence for those offering betting exchange services that allow individuals to bet against each other with no risk to the intermediary. If the betting levy remains at 1% and given that €1.6 billion is bet online in Ireland each year, it would raise €14 million annually. Since 2002, the Government has had to subvent the horse and greyhound racing fund by approximately €30 million annually. If we levy online betting, this subvention will be lost. Previously, the fund was 100% subvented by betting levies when the rates were higher but since then the Government has had to subsidise it.

The horse racing and greyhound industries are very important, especially to rural areas. I live in a rural area. Some parts of Ireland do not have industries but they might have a local horse trainer or somebody who has a few mares breeding foals. That requires stable lads and transport. There are also race courses, as well as feed companies and farmers to supply feed.

There are 28,000 people employed in this industry, which benefits mostly rural communities. Also, there are 78,000 people employed in the betting industry at present. Besides changing the way levies are introduced, the Bill also deals with opening hours. We have had varying points of view on whether bookmakers' shops should remain open longer. I think it is logical at this stage because, as Senator Paul Bradford pointed out, one can leave the bookmaker's shop and go on one's iPad, laptop, or telephone and bet 24-7. Therefore, it is logical that bookmakers should remain open. They provide employment, as people have to work in these shops, and especially on shift work if they remain open later. I agree that there should be a prohibition on betting online for persons under the age of 18.

The Bill defines a bookmaker in legislation for the first time. The definition of a bookmaker is a person who in the course of business takes bets, sets odds and undertakes to pay out on winning bets. This is one part of the legislation we have got to get right. We all know there are remote betting services such as Paddy Power, Boylesports and Ladbrokes. In addition, there are companies such as Betfred which allow one person to bet against somebody else and are just providing the service of putting the two people in contact. It is not like a dating site but, technically, that is what it is. I can lay a bet on a horse at a certain odds and another person can take up the auction. This is where the legislation has to be very tight. The briefing provided by the Library and Research Service stated that others who may not consider themselves as being in the business of bookmaking may now come under the definition of bookmaking and thus need a remote bookmaker's licence or a bookmaker's licence and will be subject to the 1% betting duty. The Department of Justice and Equality acknowledges that where individuals are engaged in significant betting exchange activity, which might if they were offline be regarded as running an unlicensed bookmaker's operation, the State should intervene. It is not clear if this is the intention of this Bill. We can give a silly example. I can have a personal bet with somebody in this Chamber. Perhaps Senator Denis Landy might have a better knowledge of the outcome of the match on Saturday, when Kilkenny, hopefully, will beat Tipperary.

If I were to bet through Senator Maurice Cummins and give him money to hold for the bet between Senator Denis Landy and me, or if he asked us if we wanted to have a bet, does that make him a remote operator, an intermediary, and does he have to pay the 1% betting tax? We have got to get the legislation right. No matter what anyone says, there are people in this country and all over the world who are professional gamblers and they use the Internet a lot. The amount of transactions may be a way of making money. I ask the Minister to explain this part of the legislation in greater detail before Committee Stage.

The Senator is about to embark on time out.

I will conclude. I ask the Minister of State to explain what is an intermediary service. I thank the Minister of State. It is important that the Bill is supported by both Houses, as it will level the playing field in the betting industry, which directly and indirectly supports almost 50,000 jobs in rural areas.

My last point is about the extra €14 million or more that may be raised if the levy is increased. I am aware that 80% of the betting levy comes from horse and greyhound racing, but especially from horse racing. We should not forget that as well as horse racing and greyhound racing, there is much online betting on soccer, GAA, rugby and other sports. When the extra €14 million goes into the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund, some of it should be given to the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Michael Ring, to support capital grants.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Simon Harris, as the Minister, Deputy Michael Noonan, is otherwise engaged. From the point of view of economics, the first danger of a licensing system is that it is colonised by those with licences. We did that with taxis and pubs, and the licence becomes a piece of paper with a value attached to it because of the skill of insiders in keeping out new entrants. That is extremely bad in economic terms. I hope that this type of restrictive licensing is not envisaged in the Bill, but the word "licence" causes certain alarm bells to go off.

When the courts opened up the taxi business on the basis that people had a right to enter a sector for which they had the skills and training and the public had the right to the services of such persons, the regulators in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport undid that by requiring new entrants to have vehicles which, according to ESRI estimates, cost about 90% more than the incumbents' vehicles and about a quarter more to run. Setting up barriers to new entrants contradicts the whole emphasis on innovation, enterprise and so on and the progress made in recent years, which we all welcome. I hope there is no element of restrictive licensing in this legislation. The last case that the taxis won was where the incumbents used licensing as a barrier to new entrants. Who is against new entrants? They are the new people. In this case, the old bookie's shop has lost market share to smarter people; I welcome that. If this is about tax avoidance, I am on the Minister's side. Of course companies should be taxed and brought into the system. From the point of view of tax collection I support what the Minister of State and the Minister are doing, but if the Bill is a means of protecting old-fashioned bookies against new forms of betting, I am out so far as that is concerned.

There is an assumption that this money is for horses and greyhounds. That ignores what Senator Denis Landy has been saying for some time: the greyhound industry went bananas and wasted a great deal of money and the horse racing industry has had declining attendances for a long period. Why are they assuming the Minister is doing this for them? If we have a bet on who wins the Rose of Tralee or whether the Seanad should be abolished, that has nothing to do with horses and greyhounds. The money should go to the Exchequer. As Minister of State at the Department of Finance, I am sure Deputy Harris would welcome that. I ask him to convey my regards to the Minister. The assumption that people betting on things that have nothing to do with horses and greyhounds will subsidise the horse and greyhound business at a time when there are so many vital social needs must be questioned. I do not regard subsidising greyhounds and horses at the expense of people as something we would want to do. We have much more deserving causes in every Deputy's and Senator's constituency office. We subsidise greyhounds and horses in the sporting field far more than human sport. I do not know what kind of priority that is. Both are industries. Industry should put money into the Exchequer.

I have had one representation stating that the amount of money put into horses and greyhounds should increase from €46 million to €80 million per year. That is an assumption based on some historical trends, and as a rational-thinking House of Parliament we should question that. If possible I will table an amendment on Committee Stage to ensure that the proceeds, whatever they are, go to the Exchequer and that the Minister of State and the Minister can decide what is done with them. There is an assumption that they will automatically go to two declining minority sports, because they always got money from people betting in betting shops and in bookies' shops and on race courses, and that computer-based betting on topics that have nothing to do with them will be another source of income for them. They might have to be informed that there are plenty of alternatives that we might like to consider.

The extension of the tax base is welcome. I will see how the Bill proceeds and table amendments to deal with the other aspect. This is not an automatic entitlement for two industries which seem to assume they have it. It is not for the incumbents in the industry to prevent innovation and keep out new entrants. The provision to increase the tax take on this untaxed source of possible revenues is the strong part of the Bill. What we do with the revenue might be a discussion for another day.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Simon Harris, who is getting fond of this House. We are getting fond of him too on that basis. When I looked at the Bill I realised that I know very little about betting and very little about gambling.

I got to Las Vegas once, on the day of the Kentucky Derby. I met someone on the aeroplane to America who told me there was an Irish horse running called Something in Cork. I put $5 on it. I thought I was putting on an each way bet, but that was not the case. As I won $50, I was in danger of becoming hooked after one visit to Las Vegas.

I welcome the legislation which has taken a long time to get here; it is overdue. The essential element is extending the 1% betting duty to online and telephone bets, which I understand. It also updates - this is much needed - the 1931 legislation which states that unless there is horse racing, betting shops must close at 6.30 p.m. from September through to March, a stipulation that rather surprised me. At the same time online betting websites are available 24 hours a day. Obviously, we need to update the legislation to address such issues and I am pleased to see that the Minister has done this.

I am unsure why gambling on lotteries and betting at bookmakers or via the totaliser at horse and dog tracks are not subject to VAT. This matter has been raised by others also and I am unsure as to the reason for it. It has been explained that the provision dates back to the 1970s when an EU directive was introduced aimed at ensuring charity lotteries and such like would not have to pay VAT. I have been pushing the case for defibrillators and asked whether they could be VAT-free or exempt from VAT since they are life-saving devices. I have argued that by reducing the cost, we could have more in operation which would, in turn, save more lives. I hope to discuss this issue in the next week or so following the announcement to be made today on the matter. I have been told that there is no way to remove VAT from defibrillators because it would be against EU rules. However, betting is exempt from VAT and I do not understand why. I see a moral difficulty where an activity like betting which harms so many families in the country is exempt, while a defibrillator which can be used to save someone's life is subject to VAT. I realise the Minister of State probably cannot address that question today, but, as a public representative, I find it difficult to explain to the public.

At 1%, betting duty is remarkably low. We should at least move back to the 2% levy which was in place as recently as 2006. Let us consider an example in one of our EU neighbours. In Estonia betting and remote gambling operators must pay a 5% tax on their net profits.

I am concerned that all the revenue raised is used to fund the horse racing and greyhound racing industries. This is an issue which has been commented on by others in the House today. I am keen to see the revenue being more evenly spread. In particular, we should be investing in grassroots sports and not only the GAA. This is a small country and our success at major sports events such as the Olympics Games is relatively minor. However, we could do far better with more targeted investment which would really help. People bet on football matches and so on, but none of the money actually goes towards helping young Irish football players. We are well aware of the lack of talent coming up through the ranks. Studies have shown that there has been a massive drop-off in sports participation by young girls in secondary schools. What about imposing an extra 1% in betting duty which could be used directly to fund grassroots sports? If the Minister of State is considering the imposition of extra levies, he could do far worse than taking on board this particular idea, on which I am keen to hear his view.

Will the Minister of State expand on the issue of possible money laundering? In particular, what moves have been made in this area in the European Union? What is Ireland's position on the matter? Are we waiting for EU legislation or is the Government doing anything in the meantime?

The Bill should be discussed in the context of the upcoming Gambling Control Bill. Countries such as Germany have increased controls on advertising and limited the amounts customers can gamble. Should we have some limits on the amounts people can gamble? We should at least examine following Germany's lead in this regard.

I am keen to see hard figures for betting shops and socioeconomic backgrounds. Let us consider the figures produced by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling in the United Kingdom. They show that bookmakers have targeted the poorest areas with the highest unemployment rates, lowest income levels and highest crime rates. Are similar figures available in this country? Is the Minister of State open to conducting a similar study? We are all aware of the proliferation in the number of betting shops on town streets, let alone in online gambling. We need to find out if companies are explicitly targeting poorer areas. Should we then limit the number of betting shops in poorer areas? Should communities have the right to decide there are too many betting shops in their areas? Given the problems associated with gambling, should the industry be allowed to sponsor and advertise wherever it pleases? We talk about restricting alcohol advertising. Should we restrict gambling advertising? I do not like to interfere and do not believe we should make this a nanny state, but there should be some thought given to the matter. Since we are so careful to ensure we restrict alcohol advertising, perhaps we should restrict other forms of advertising also.

Should we oblige some of the large gambling companies to pay back a certain percentage of their profits to the customer? I do not have a precise figure in mind, but I understand that in Italy certain online games operators must pay back at least 90% of the money waged. There was a rule about slot machines also. I have not seen this issue addressed anywhere and wonder whether the Minister of State has considered anything along these lines.

I find myself talking about the need to ensure we do not make this a nanny state, yet I am introducing various such suggestions. I am not an enthusiast of gambling. I hate to see persons who are less well off spending their money on gambling. Someone has to win, but it is seldom the gambler.

I thank Senators for their contributions, the welcome they have given to the Betting Bill and their considered contributions to the debate. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, was present for much of it and I have had the pleasure of being present for the second half of it.

While the Bill deals with the regulation of the remote betting sector and provides the basis for fair and equal tax treatment of all bookmakers, whether traditional or remote, the debate has covered a wide range of related and interlinked issues, as we have seen in the case of Senator Feargal Quinn's contribution and those of other Senators.

Several Senators commented on the slow progress made in bringing the Bill before the House. While that is fair comment, there was a good reason for it. What the Bill sets out to do - to regulate and tax the remote sector - is very challenging, as we are dealing with a sector which, by its nature, does not necessarily have a physical presence within the State.

As Members are aware, the Bill was originally published in July 2012, but further work was required on compliance and enforcement issues. The Bill was republished in July 2013 and there was a standstill for three months under the EU technical standards directive. When the Minister brought forward amendments in the Dáil on the issue of compliance, a further standstill was required.

Concerns have been expressed by several Senators about the regulation of the remote sector and the collection of taxes from companies which do not necessarily have a physical presence in the country. There is no doubt that the introduction of a licensing and tax regime for remote bookmakers and betting intermediaries which, in the majority of cases, are based outside the jurisdiction, poses significant challenges in terms of enforcement and compliance. However, where a company is licensed by the authorities, it is likely to be tax compliant. In the case of companies which are not licensed but which continue to offer services within the jurisdiction, the Bill provides a range of powers that may be deployed. If it is found that additional powers are required at any stage in this regard, the Government will not hesitate to provide them. It is important to note that this is an honest and comprehensive effort to provide the additional powers required. However, should it become apparent that further powers are required, the Government will not hesitate to provide them.

Several Senators have commented on the current level of betting duty and called for an increase. The relatively low rate of duty is a function of the changes that have taken place in the bookmaking industry in recent years, in particular, the increase in the remote or online sector. As we all know well, the explosion in the use of mobile phones, laptops and other electronic communications devices has greatly facilitated the migration of punters to the remote sector. Until the playing field for traditional and remote bookmakers has been levelled in so far as taxation is concerned, the Minister for Finance believes the rate must be kept at low levels. Most importantly, the Bill will put in place a regulatory framework to allow for the extension of betting duty to the remote sector. This is the most significant development we are debating in the legislation. This will permit the application of a 1% duty to licensed remote bookmakers and a 15% duty to the commission of licensed betting intermediaries. As the Minister has always said, his priority in the first instance has been to put in place a regulatory and licensing regime for the remote sector. When this regime is in place, all other options concerning the level and type of tax involved in the betting industry can be explored. However, until the correct regulatory regime is in place first, other options do not come into play.

Several contributions reflected on the impact of betting on the most vulnerable in our society, and people made valuable and insightful contributions in this regard. The Minister for Finance and myself share the views of many Senators who believe we need to provide adequate protection for consumers. The supervision of operators providing online betting services is a first step in this direction.

Some Senators suggested during the course of this debate that the additional tax raised should be earmarked to support those with gambling addiction issues or to continue to support the horse and greyhound racing industries; we heard a contrasting debate on that. The Minister is not in favour of hypothecated taxes. However, the additional revenues raised will allow the Government some scope to consider areas of need.

Some issues were raised during the course of the debate that I would like to respond to and there will be an opportunity to tease them out further on Committee Stage. Senator O'Brien asked about issues raised by the European Commission. Members will be aware this Bill is subject to the European Union technical standards directive and a three months standstill period was invoked on its publication in July 2013, as I have outlined. During this period a number of communications seeking clarification around aspects of the Bill were received from the Commission and responded to by my officials.

Following the amendments made on Committee Stage in the Dáil, a further standstill period of three months was required under the European directive. Arising out of this, the Commission has again raised a number of issues around the Bill, and officials are working with the Commission on these issues. This further engagement means that a standstill period is extended for a further month until October, and we will keep both Houses informed about that.

A number of valid questions and queries were raised on when the Minister will bring forward proposals to tax other forms of online gambling. The Minister intends to examine the options available in this regard. However, his priority has been to ensure that the regulatory regime is developed for the gambling sector, and this will be brought about through the proposed gambling control legislation being brought forward by my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality.

The issue of gaming machines on bookmakers' premises was raised. It is important to state these are illegal and are clearly a matter for the Garda.

Senator O'Neill raised the issue of how one defines a bookmaker, and the issue of betting intermediaries. This is something I presume can be teased out on Committee Stage but the Minister is of the view that the definition of bookmakers in the Bill is as comprehensive as it needs to be.

To return to the issue of where the funds go, which was raised by Senator Barrett and Senator Quinn, it is important to state that while traditionally there has been a link between revenues accruing from betting taxes and the allocation to the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund, there is no hypothecation of these revenues. All receipts from betting will go directly to the Exchequer. The funding of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund is a matter for discussion between the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in the context of the annual Estimates campaign. That discussion has to happen annually. The Senators are correct that there has been a perceived link between the two, but any additional revenue collected by the State poses additional opportunities for Government to make regarding the expenditure of public funds and the delivery of services.

Senator Cummins highlighted an anomaly regarding the State-sponsored tote, which allows children as young as six or seven bet when one must be over the age of 18 to buy a lottery ticket or to bet with a bookmaker in this country. I will raise that anomaly with my colleague, the Minister for Finance.

Interesting points were raised that are not directly linked to this Bill from the point of view of the Department of Finance but are important societal questions. Senator Quinn listed a number of them to which I am extremely sympathetic. I do not believe we have to propose a nanny state. The two are not mutually exclusive because the Senator raises serious societal issues that we all see. As gambling has moved away from the bookmakers shop and into the privacy of a home, as it has been easier for children to access devices, and easier to hide addiction because there is not a need to physically leave the house and go to a premises, these pose broader questions that will need to be examined in terms of the whole of Government and the debates we have in this Oireachtas. It is important to note the gambling control Bill which will be introduced by my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality.

I thank Senators for their contributions to the debate. As the Minister remarked in his opening statement to the House, a small number of matters remain under his consideration for inclusion on Committee Stage. I am aware other Senators have indicated they may wish to bring forward their own amendments. The Minister for Finance is looking forward to a robust and detailed debate at that stage.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

What date Senator?

We will give a date of 1 October but-----

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 1 October 2014.
Sitting suspended at 5.35 p.m. and resumed at 6 p.m.