Betting (Amendment) Bill 2013: Report and Final Stages

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Simon Harris, and his officials. Before we commence, I remind Senators that they may only speak once on Report Stage, except for the proposer of an amendment who may reply to the discussion on the amendment. Also on Report Stage, each amendment must be seconded. Amendment No. 1 is in the names of Senators Darragh O'Brien, Thomas Byrne and other Fianna Fáil Senators.

I move amendment No. 1:

1. In page 41, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following:

“40. The Minister shall, within 3 months of the enactment of this Act, lay before both Houses of the Oireachtas a report on measures that will be undertaken to protect vulnerable people from engaging in harmful gambling and the manner in which remote betting intermediaries must assist in this.”.

I mentioned this amendment on a previous occasion and I have retabled it. This amendment calls for the Government to lay before the Houses of the Oireachtas within three months of the enactment of the Bill, which we support, a report on the measures which will be undertaken to protect vulnerable people from engaging in harmful gambling and the manner in which remote betting intermediaries must assist in this. When the Minister of State, Deputy Joe McHugh, was in this House last week, we sought an update on the gambling control Bill and its progress and we were given a commitment on it. This is crucially important. I know that Senator Maurice Cummins, as Leader of the House, agrees that we were hoping for both Bills to be introduced in tandem. The amendment is clear and makes sense. I will not delay the House on that basis.

I would like Minister of State to advise the status of, and the progress that has been made on, the gambling control Bill.

I am sympathetic to the amendment proposed by Senator Darragh O'Brien but I await the Minister of State's response. I share the Senator's concerns about the gambling control Bill. It was intended that it would be introduced in parallel with the Betting (Amendment) Bill. I am aware it is a matter for the Department of Justice and Equality but it is not leading to the spirit that was intended in respect of them in our not having them running fairly close together. I hope the Minister of State might be able to throw some light on that in regard to the gambling control Bill.

This Betting (Amendment) Bill fails to introduce even the most basic social protection measures such as those found in other regulated jurisdictions whereby online operators are obliged to provide time-out facilities and allow players to set a maximum time limit for gambling purposes before they commence play. Such measures would be a fundamental licensing requirement in other jurisdictions. While the Bill is worthy of support, the heavy hitting in terms of the backup measures that are required will come in the gambling control Bill . I am disappointed that it has not been advanced to such a stage where we could immediately move on to discuss it within the next number of weeks. That is obviously not going to happen, but I would hope it could be enacted this year. If more resources are required in order to deal with the framing and drafting of it, they should be put in place because of its importance for people to have such a Bill in place. I am sympathetic towards the Senator's amendment and I await the Minister of State's response as to whether he can accede to it.

I second the amendment.

I thank Senator Darragh O'Brien for tabling the amendment. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, is fully in agreement on the need to provide protection for consumers and the supervision of operators providing online betting services is a first step in this direction. The Betting (Amendment) Bill puts in place a regulatory system for the remote sector, including betting intermediaries, who, up until this point, have been unregulated. The Bill provides that in order to offer betting services in this jurisdiction, a remote betting operator or betting intermediary must first secure a certificate of personal fitness from the Minister for Justice and Equality. This certificate of personal fitness determines whether a person is a qualified person to hold a remote bookmaker's or betting intermediary's licence and, together with the possession of tax clearance certificate and the payment of the appropriate licence fee, the certificate must be presented to the Revenue Commissioners to allow them to then issue a licence.

The Bill also includes specific grounds for the refusal or revocation of a certificate of personal fitness, including where a person stands convicted of an offence under specified Acts in Ireland or elsewhere, relating to the conduct of gambling where an applicant who has previously held a bookmaker's licence has in the past refused to pay sums due or conducted the business in a disorderly manner, or where an applicant is not a fit or proper person under the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010. In addition, the Bill specifically provides for the extension to the remote sector of the prohibition on taking a bet or engaging in a betting transaction with a person under the age of 18 years. Up until this point there has been no regulation of this area.

As the Minister said in earlier debates during the passage of this legislation, the introduction of this Bill is an interim measure pending the enactment of the gambling control Bill. One of the fundamental principles underpinning the gambling control Bill is the protection of minors and other vulnerable persons. That Bill will make clear the responsibilities of licensed operators when it comes to ensuring that these persons are not permitted to access gambling services. The Minister for Justice and Equality will be responsible for the monitoring of the activities of operators in this regard.

I am conscious that Senator Darragh O'Brien and others have sought an update on the position regarding the gambling control Bill. The Government approved the general scheme of that Bill in July 2013. I am informed that the scheme is with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and awaiting formal drafting. However, Senators will appreciate that a significant body of priority legislation dealing with societal issues, piloted by the Minister for Justice and Equality, is already scheduled for the Oireachtas in this term, including the amendment of the Constitution (marriage equality referendum) Bill, the Children and Family Relationships Bill, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill and the Garda Síochána (policing authority and miscellaneous provisions) Bill. Accordingly, it is not possible to say when the gambling control legislation will be published but I certainly will convey to the Minister the comments of the Leader of the House and Senator Darragh O'Brien in terms of the view that this legislation needs to be seen as quickly as possible.

Tá fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit. I pressed an amendment to this Bill last week to provide that warnings would be issued by Government on all gambling and betting outlets. My colleague, Senator Darragh O'Brien, brought to the Seanad's attention the number of gambling machines that are available in betting offices. I heard today that a public house in the south east, well away from the Leader's constituency, now has a mini bookie office on its premises. I read some of the research on this area and this has particular resonance for the Minister for Finance. As much €27.3 million being lost annually as a result of gaming machines.

I related two stories here last week. One is the case of parents who found their son had raised debts of €15,000 through gambling. The other case is that of a married man who had lost €80,000 in the space of six weeks and was going home to face his wife. That man came in here and asked to see me. I did not know him, I do not know why he came here and why he asked to see me other than that he said I had recently been elected and he saw my name.

It strikes me that the Betting (Amendment ) Bill 2013 is more about revenue raising than anything else. There is not one sinew of social care, social justice or social protection to be found in that Bill. I understand the purpose behind it and that when the amendment to the Bill was drafted, it was not possible to include it in it. The amendment put forward by Fianna Fáil today is the best I could possibly hope for in the light of what I heard last week.

I wonder where the power is in this country behind gambling and why it is that we are afraid to confront this issue. When I turn on my television at night, I am invited to play bingo, roulette and every other game under the sun. I get constant messages through Facebook and Twitter inviting me to engage in some form of online gambling. Last week, Senator Mary Ann O'Brien told us about how she had registered simply to see how the system works and when she attempted to deregister from an online site, she got a plethora of e-mails and messages demanding to know why she wanted to leave it. We cannot afford to sit back and wait for the promised Bill. I cannot see a way that Bill will ever see the light of day in the life of the Government. The only way we can provide some form of protection is through this Bill. I commend Fianna Fáil for putting forward this amendment in light of the fact that my amendment was defeated last week.

I ask the Minister of State to consider two actions. The first is that he genuinely consider including the Fianna Fáil amendment but, more importantly, I want the Department of Finance, given that it controls Revenue, to start getting Revenue to do the job it is paid to do. I want every gambling house and betting shop in this country raided. I want Revenue to go out and find the illegal machines in place. I understand there are gaming machines on which a VAT rate of 1% is paid when a rate of 23% should be paid on them. I want this to be examined. I do not have to walk more than two miles to where I can see a few hundred machines that are in use all day every day that no longer takes coins but take notes. That is outrageous.

Last week, we heard the Leader of the House referring to children being brought to the tote. It was the first time in my life that I remembered that I was guilty of that myself. I brought my children to the Galway races, gave them little £5 notes and told them to cast a bet. At the time I did not realise it was as lethal as handing them their first heroin shot, because it does the same damage. Gambling destroys lives.

In the Irish Independent last weekend Mr. Liam Fay wrote about the political folly of the new Senator talking about trying to play nanny to the State with respect to gambling. Mr. Fay obviously does not understand the damage-----

The Senator must desist from naming people who are not Members and not here to defend themselves.

I deeply regret naming him. However, he had no difficulty in naming me.

The Senator is a public figure.

He put his name in the public domain when he named me and put his byline to it. Therefore, I do not apologise.

The Senator has an opportunity to reply to the newspaper if he so wishes. I am simply asking him not to name anyone.

He is doing it here.

Perhaps it was political folly, but I do not know that it is given the damage being done to families. Families are being destroyed. Let us consider what wives are told. The man who came to see me haunts me. I have thought of him going home to his wife and asking her to sit down because there is something he has to tell her. This haunts me because in 1983 when my business went bust, I had to walk out of the Bank of Ireland at 43 Eyre Square, go home to my wife and ask her to sit down because there was something I had to tell her. I had to tell her that I had lost not alone the business but our home and everything we owned as a result of a bad business venture. I had never backed anything much in my life, but I had backed a business that went wrong. I think of the pain and suffering that my wife went through at the time.

Now let us consider that in the context of the nonsense of gambling. Let us suppose I had taken the money and put it on a horse, a roulette wheel or whatever. I may have had to explain to my family that I had destroyed their lives, lost their home and all of their assets. The man in question told me about getting up in the middle of the night to get his smartphone for a couple of shots on the roulette wheel. I asked him whether it was the excitement of waiting for the win. He said that, in truth, the excitement passed the moment the bet was laid. He said he never cared whether he won or lost, it was a question of laying the bet. Waking up in the middle of the night to lay a bet is bad form. I call on the Minister of State to take on board Senator Darragh O'Brien's amendment and to amend the Bill. We need to do something urgently.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell has explained better than I ever could why this amendment is necessary. We had a good debate last week when a different Minister of State was in the House. We are trying to improve this legislation. Long before Senator Gerard P. Craughwell was elected, Senator Maurice Cummins and I had been raising issues about the Betting (Amendment) Bill. We wanted this legislation before the House for a variety of reasons. It is not, as some people have suggested, to create a nanny state in any way, shape or form. One of the reasons we sought to have the Bill relates to the betting side. It would provide some controls, bring extra funds to the Exchequer and provide a level playing pitch for independent bookmakers. They are closing every week throughout the country. It would give them an opportunity to stand up against the multiples.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. The response he gave, however, related strictly to betting rather than gambling. I know this Bill will regularise online betting but it does not do the same for online gambling or for the gambling machines to which Senator Gerard P. Craughwell adverted. We reckon there are approximately 6,780 of these machines in the country. The machines are not necessarily the problem. If someone is placing a bet, I would rather he did so at a bookies. People working in local bookie's shops know their punters. They can decide, for example, that a person has done enough on a given day and should not put on another bet. However, that cannot be done online.

Last week, I raised a matter with the Minister of State, Deputy Joe McHugh. Bookies shops are now operating roulette wheels, virtual betting and virtual racing. It is possible to watch virtual dog and horse racing, that is, computer-generated races, when there is no racing on.

They are hobby horses.

That is not covered by the Bill because it is considered gambling as opposed to betting. Let us consider all the various screens in bookie's shops, or roulette wheels with maximum bets of €100 per number. People can go into a card club or casino. I had hoped the gambling Bill would be introduced to regularise that sector and allow a public element in casinos. It is ridiculous that they are set up as private clubs. We could regularise that sector better. At least if a person goes into one of those establishments the maximum bet is €50. Again, these are generally run by professionals.

Let us return to what Senator Gerard P. Craughwell said. The Minister of State outlined the important legislation being processed in the Department. I fully appreciate that without question. The problem is that I have looked back over notes indicating that we were promised this legislation absolutely by summer 2014. However, based on the answer provided by the Minister of State it is not going to be brought in this year. It will not be brought in during the term of the Government, unfortunately. When is it going to become important? This is not a pop at the Government, the Minister of State or the officials, who are doing their level best, but it is not a priority.

The Minister of State should consider this with his revenue hat on. Money is being lost to the Exchequer by not regulating the gambling part of the sector. It amounts to millions. We reckon it is approximately €27 million, although it is probably more.

Let us consider the size of the industry in the rest of Europe and the question of foreign direct investment. Firms are looking at other countries to develop further what they are doing, but they are not coming to Ireland because we have not regulated the sector properly. We reckon there is considerable potential in the sector. However, I am concerned that although we are bringing in the Betting (Amendment) Bill now, there is no protection for people in real terms on the gambling side or for online gambling, which is actually the largest sector.

Senators Gerard P. Craughwell and Maurice Cummins have referred to roulette, bingo and so on. It is rife throughout the country. I am not a killjoy by any stretch of the imagination and I am not into big government or controlling everything and so on, but the fact that we are bringing forward legislation without a timeline for gambling control measures is wrong, especially since everyone agrees they are needed.

We should set something down in this area. That is why the amendment was tabled in good faith. It was to provide a timeframe under which the Government would have to come back within three months. This would indicate to the industry that the Government, whatever its make-up, was serious about addressing the sector. The problem is that when this goes through, it is done. There are no measures for a proper review. I realise the Minister of State referred to reports being laid before the House. If the Bill came back amended from the Seanad, it would send the message that we have included an important amendment that should be reconsidered in the Dáil. It could go to Cabinet then which could decide to prioritise gambling control legislation and ensure that, even if it is a slimmed-down version, it would get started. We are not seeking a panacea to all our ills, but perhaps a slimmed-down version. Why not do that?

I have no wish to divide the House on the matter and I opted not to divide the House last week. Instead, I asked the Minister of State, Deputy Joe McHugh, to seek an update. The Minister of State, Deputy Simon Harris, has provided an update but, unfortunately, it is insufficient. If we let the Bill go through with no amendments, the matter will be done and will not see the gambling control Bill in the term of the Government. I am willing to bet my house that the Government will not produce it because of the other priorities the Minister of State has outlined. This is why I will insist on pressing the amendment.

Senator Darragh O'Brien should not lose the house whatever he does.

That is it. Since there is no control in this area, I could do that. The only control in that case would be my wife. That is the reason for the amendment. It is not to cause any difficulty in any way, shape or form. We all agree this is a serious matter. It should be treated as such. We need the gambling control Bill but we do not have it.

I thank all Senators for the debate and discussion on this point.

I am certainly not unsympathetic towards what the Senator is trying to do. There is very little of what Senators Gerard P. Craughwell, Darragh O'Brien and Maurice Cummins said with which I disagree. I, too, have seen at first hand the damaging effects of gambling on many people, including people close to me. It can be devastating, and Senator Gerard P. Craughwell is correct in that regard. The only point on which I disagree is on the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, which I believe is doing its job. Many of the issues fall outside its scope. They might be issues for the Garda or local authority, and that is where the gambling control Bill comes into play.

The priority regarding the Betting (Amendment) Bill has always been to put in place the regulatory system for the remote sector with a view to levelling the playing field for all bookmakers, remote and traditional, in terms of betting duties. Everybody in this House is largely in agreement with that. The other issues, such as the questions on the prohibition of advertising, and the wider societal issues, some of which we have touched on today, will be dealt with in the gambling control legislation being brought forward by the Minister for Justice and Equality. On the enactment of that legislation, we will have a regulator for the entire gambling sector for the first time. This marks significant progress.

Let me outline the difficulty with the amendment and the reason I am not in a position to accept it. This is the finance-related Bill while the gambling control Bill is the responsibility of the Department of Justice and Equality. It is at Parliamentary Counsel level and will deal with the justice and legal issues.

I am not sure what the amendment will achieve that is not already being achieved in preparation for the gambling control Bill. Members on all sides in both Houses and in the Government should work together on the gambling control Bill. By producing another report outlining what should be done to protect vulnerable people, one is serving the purpose of the gambling control Bill in dealing with the wider societal issues. I do not wish to be confrontational or partisan on this, because I accept that the amendment was tabled in good faith. Much of what has been said is valid, but I argue that there are two Bills proposed by the Government for the sector that must be considered, namely the Betting (Amendment) Bill, which is to put in place a regulatory structure for remote and traditional gambling and deal with the finance side, and a justice-related Bill, the gambling control Bill, which is to deal with the wider societal issues and gambling regulation. I understand Senator Darragh O'Brien will push this amendment to a vote, but I am not in a position, acting on behalf of the Minister for Finance, to accept it.

Amendment put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 13; Níl, 23.

  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Crown, John.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Mary Ann.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Thomas Byrne and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden.
Amendment declared lost.
Bill received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

The Bill is an important step in the right direction; it will level the playing field for independent or traditional bookmakers in respect of the multinationals of the world, and it will regulate online betting. However, I inform colleagues that it does nothing about online gambling. I ask each Member who has a concern about this area, including the Minister of State who has more power than any of us, to ensure something is done this year about gambling control. The Bill is welcome and we support it, but nothing in it relates to gambling control, which needs to be addressed urgently by the Government. Unfortunately, the Minister of State's response today on behalf of the Government tells me nothing will be done this year, but let us try to change this. I ask the Minister of State to take a message back from the Seanad today that it is not acceptable for this to be left to the next Government or a future Government and that it continue to be long-fingered. It is far too serious an issue. We have regulated one part of the industry but have left the other free. I state this on behalf of my party as finance spokesperson and leader of the group. This needs to be addressed and I ask the Minister of State to take this back to the Government very clearly. We support the Bill which is a good and important step, but nothing has been done on gambling. We need to get there much more quickly than the Government is outlining.

The Bill is decent legislation which goes a long way towards levelling the playing field. Senator Darragh O'Brien is 100% right in what he has said. Not a Senator in the House would disagree that the gambling element of the betting industry needs to be regulated. We all know of heartbreaking cases of gambling addiction which need to be dealt with urgently. As we stated, we could not support the amendment because we feel it would be better placed in the gambling control Bill. I believe the Minister of State will take heed of what Senator Darragh O'Brien stated - that there is no timeframe for the gambling control Bill to come to the House and this is a real weakness and flaw. I hope we will be in a position to deal with it in this term as opposed to the next term. I know it is a matter for the Minister for Justice and Equality to bring forward this legislation. It would be good if we could initiate it in this House. I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House and handling his brief so competently. We look forward to seeing the gambling control Bill as soon as possible.

I welcome the Bill which is a good first step. Its focus is on facilitating the taxation of remote betting and levelling the playing field for bookmakers. Everybody will agree with this. I cannot disagree with anything my colleague in the Opposition stated. The gambling control Bill is an essential part of the gambling and betting jigsaw which must be put in place. We have now put in place one very important piece of this jigsaw, but it will not have the desired effect until such time as we have debated the gambling control Bill and it is in place. I appeal to the Minister of State through his good offices to try to expedite the passage of the Bill in order that it will be published by summer and introduced before the end of the year. Without it, what we are doing will only deal with part of the problem. We are trying to repeal a 1931 Act, but online betting and remote betting is far ahead of the legislation, as much has changed since 1931. Much has changed since 2010 in the industry and this will continue on an ongoing basis. We are in a catch-up situation. Unless we deal with the gambling control Bill as a matter of urgency we will fall further behind. People and families will suffer as a result, and I appeal to the Minister of State to try to expedite the gambling control Bill. I thank the Minister of State and his officials, as much work has gone into the Bill. I wish him well and I hope the gambling control Bill will come before us before the summer.

I wait with bated breath for the gambling control Bill. Last night I was thinking about gambling.

As I was thinking about it, an advertisement appeared on the television offering me access to the best bingo game in the world. I could pick from five or six by dialling some number or getting online. No sooner had that advertisement finished than something came up on the television offering me roulette and blackjack. I asked myself how many ways I could have gambled if I wanted to. What could I start betting on if I wanted to? Apart from the flies walking up the wall, I could bet on any of the things I had just mentioned - card games, roulette, blackjack, poker, you name it. I could bet on live and computer-generated horse races. I could bet in and out of the cloud. I could bet with Irish-based gambling houses or gambling houses from God knows where. I started to look a little further. I can bet on currencies and stock market movements and I can engage in spread betting. I can lose or make fortunes in moments. We have seen how contracts cost one man in this country €1.2 billion. That was gambling with the livelihoods of his workers. We need controls urgently.

As I have said, there is a proble. The Revenue Commissioners have responsibility for some part of what goes on in the gaming and gambling world, while the Garda has other responsibilities. God knows who else has responsibility everywhere else. It is possible to put forward some form of task force that will go into the betting houses of this country and start rooting out the illegal machines that are there. This will regularise the revenue requirements that are there. I understand that one can license a machine for three months and operate it for 12 months. One can decide whether one is going to pay 1% VAT on earnings from gambling or 23% VAT. It seems to be very much down to the owner of the emporium or saloon to decide what they are prepared to give.

I did not get the Government health warning through. I have not given up on it and will be pushing hard for that on aspects of gambling. All we are asking is that we control it. If I run an online system, I can have a database that will work the odds against the individual. As an individual improves, I can worsen their lot. I can limit the amount they are allowed to bet on any individual race on any individual issue because I do this with technology. I can profile John Bloggs, see where he normally bets and make it harder or easier for him in order to entice him and when he is in, give him a kicking because this is what technology does.

The Leader mentioned a 1931 Act which we are updating it in 2015.

We have had Second Stage speeches.

I just feel very passionate about this issue.

When the Minister of State goes back to his office today, he needs to pick up the telephone and ring the head of Revenue and the Minister of State in the Department of Justice and Equality and get them to ring An Garda Síochána. Let us bring them together in a room, sit down and see what we can do without the warnings I am looking for to limit the ripping-off of people. The sum of €27.3 million, to which Senator Darragh O'Brien alluded, would take many people off trolleys and put many people into nursing homes. We are allowing the fat cats of the gambling industry to rip us off day after day. It is time to put an end to this. I have no vested interest in it, thank God. If the Minister of State can do nothing else, he can do this much. He has the power to bring in the various heads of various statutory bodies which have responsibility and tell them he wants a report on his desk within a week about what steps they have taken to ensure the law is adhered to the letter. Let us try with the gambling control Bill and look at all the aspects of gambling. Let us be very broad in our definition of gambling.

I am in complete agreement with Senators Gerard P. Craughwell and Darragh O'Brien on these issues. To be fair, when the Leader was Opposition spokesperson on justice, he prepared some very good Private Members' legislation in this area. This is a step in the right direction. I have no doubt about the commitment of the Minister of State in this regard because he knows only too well that lives are being destroyed.

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality held significant consultations with various stakeholders on gambling. I made some very interesting observations during that process. If one looks at traditional betting shops, it is a way of controlling and making it a little more difficult for people who, unfortunately, find themselves addicted to gambling. It is certainly a stumbling block. If horses are non-runners, what happens to that money? We need a system like the deposits system where banks traditionally would hold on to deposits which were transferred into a fund that is used for good causes. I will not delay.

On the Bill, please.

I am speaking about it. There are millions of unclaimed prizes and money on horses that are non-runners being retained by bookies' offices throughout the country. This Bill is a step in the right direction but much more needs to be done. We should be world leaders in protecting our citizens against the scourge of gambling. We should not be catching up. We should make virtual betting illegal. An online provider should not be allowed to create these fictitious hobby-horse, pretend races. We would all have a shopping list a mile long as regards what we could do with €30 million. I want to see in the lifetime of the Government an effective and appropriate gambling control Act and I have no doubt that under the stewardship of this Minister of State, who is one of the most competent in the Government, we will see that happen.

I welcome the Bill and congratulate Senator Gerard P. Craughwell for the amendment he brought forward seeking a Government health warning and Senator Darragh O'Brien for the amendment brought forward by the Fianna Fáil Senators today. I wish both amendments had been accepted because they were excellent amendments dealing with the issues of a Government health warning and Government accountability in terms of what measures are being take to protect vulnerable people from engaging in harmful gambling. It is very important for us to take measures in the area of gambling control.

I foresee difficulties with this because some issues arise that are very similar to those that arise in the areas of alcohol and tobacco. We see how the vested interests are not slow to get their act together and to lobby politicians and those in the corridors of power. Of course, we have lobbying legislation that will, hopefully, make all of that more transparent. When I occasionally watch racing on St. Stephen's Day or Easter Monday, the power of the gambling industry lobby and their advertising in particular is quite noticeable. The same issues arise when we talk about the dangers of sponsorship of sporting events by alcohol companies and the way that lures young people into a culture of drinking. There is no doubt that this is a fact and a problem. The same can be said about these advertisements for betting companies. They are very slick and are targeted at a particular demographic, namely, young men, encouraging a culture of bravado and recklessness. There is no doubt about the truth of what Senator Gerard P. Craughwell said. It is possible to win fortunes in an instant but one is much more likely to lose fortunes.

We must be worried about the families that are being endangered and the family resources that are being compromised in an upstairs room by somebody gambling online, before anybody even knows about it.

We have to address this issue. We cannot be wring our hands about the cynical activities of the tobacco industry and the way it seeks to resist controls, plain packaging or whatever or the behaviour of the drinks companies as they seek to water down efforts to prevent the way in which they influence the culture and at the same time pretend that there is no such problem going on in exactly the same way with gambling and the betting industry. I appreciate that people have jobs in the betting industry, and I know this helps, directly and indirectly, the bloodstock industry, which is very important also.

The Senator is making a Second Stage speech.

We have important issues to wrestle with. I congratulate those who put forward amendments. I welcome the Government's legislation but hope the gambling control legislation will come soon.

I very much welcome the passage of the legislation and the all-party support for it. I join colleagues in urging the Minister to put pressure on his Cabinet colleagues to bring forward the betting control Bill as soon as possible. We all want to see as much control as possible put in place but I am concerned that we will still have a major issue with gambling in this country. We need to start a major national conversation about the effects of gambling. The media need to adopt a constructive stance in this regard also. I am concerned that when local radio stations are reporting on upcoming sporting events, they give the odds that the local team will beat their neighbours. It is encouraging young people to consider whether there is money to be made on the upcoming match between two local parishes. That is sending the wrong message, and the media should be much more responsible in that regard.

There is no doubt that excessive gambling is a serious issue, particularly among young men, as previously stated. It is very easy now to access all sorts of betting opportunities, which is frightening. We need to do much more in the schools to highlight at an early age the dangers and the destruction that can be caused to families and individuals as a result of excessive gambling. I would like this House to have a major debate on a future occasion where we would flag the start of a national conversation on the problems gambling is causing here and the destruction it is causing to families.

I do not intend to detain the House other than to thank Senators on all sides for their support in passing the Bill. This is significant legislation in its own right. Nobody on this side of the House or in Government is claiming that the Bill is a panacea or some sort of magic wand solution to all the ills, many of which have been documented throughout this debate. There is a need for a gambling control Bill and the Government is committed to introducing such a Bill. Many of the issues the Senators outlined would be better placed in the context of that discussion.

I thank my officials who have put a significant amount of work into this Bill. I know that a number of Senators would have engaged with them through various Stages. I look forward to the Bill going to the other House and, ultimately, being signed into law as quickly as possible.

Question put and agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 2.15 p.m. and resumed at 4 p.m.