I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, to the House. As amendment No. 1 is consequential on amendment No. 12, amendments Nos. 1 and 12 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.
Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill 2019: Committee Stage
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 3, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:
"(2) In this Act "Act of 1931" means the Betting Act 1931.".
I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House to take this important legislation. Amendment No. 1 seeks to include reference to the Betting Act 1931 in the section on definitions. Amendment No. 12 relates to the ability of people to bet on the outcome of lotteries. Those bets may be placed outside the jurisdiction and, therefore, there is no recourse for the Government in seeking to control and regulate them and ensure there is a return to the taxpayer. We intend to press these amendments.
I am delighted to be in the Seanad for the debate on this important legislation. As I said on Second Stage, the Bill seeks to address certain deficiencies with regard to the conduct of gaming and lottery activities regulated under the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956. Pending a comprehensive reform of gambling laws, which we are working on, the Bill proposes a number of interim reform measures for the licensing and regulation of gaming and lottery activities covered by the 1956 Act.
Section 1 states that the principal Act is the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956. I have tabled a later amendment to amend the Betting Act 1931, and it should be subsequently added to the Acts referred to if my amendment is carried. I do not believe it is correct to add to the definition of principal Act in the way proposed by the Senator. The Office of the Attorney General is supportive of that view. There is a risk of uncertainty and poor drafting practice, I am told. There is reference to the Betting Acts in the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956, which did not require its mention in the definition of the principal Act in section 1. Such an addition as proposed by the Senator would serve no purpose, would be superfluous from a drafting perspective, and would give rise to uncertainty, and I am sure none of us wants that. I ask the Senator to consider withdrawing the amendment.
I want to make a number of points on amendment No. 12. I have no function in respect of the national lottery, its regulation or licensing. That is a matter for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform under the National Lottery Act 2013. The Minister did not provide in that legislation for any prohibition on licensed remote bookmakers offering bets on the outcome of the national lottery draw on Wednesdays and Saturdays. My Department's role in regard to licensed bookmakers is limited to the provision of certificates of fitness for applicants for bookmaker's licences, remote bookmaker's licences and for remote betting intermediaries. The licences are issued by the Revenue Commissioners. I am not aware that any conditions are imposed in those licences as to the nature of the bets that such licensees might offer.
Therefore, I must take my guidance in this matter from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, who engaged on this particular point with Deputy Burton in the other House on 5 March last. The Minister noted on that occasion that there is no particular evidence that the offers of bookmakers have any significant impact on the sales of national lottery products. I note that the turnover of the national lottery increased from €670 million in 2015 to €750 million in 2016, to €800 million in 2017, and to €805 million in 2018. This certainly does not suggest much impact. Senators cited the contribution of the national lottery to good causes each year. This is to be welcomed, although such contribution is a critical consideration in having the national lottery in the first place.
The European Lotto Betting Association, ELBA, members, myLotto24 and Lottoland, commissioned a report by a leading economic analyst, Mr. Jim Power, entitled An Assessment of the Online Gambling Market in Ireland and its Impact on Good Causes Funding by the National Lottery. Contrary to the position adopted by the national lottery licence holder, the report found no evidence that lottery betting, either online or via retail betting shops, was undermining good causes funding or that it threatened it in the long term. The report found that there are only six lottery betting providers licensed and active as remote bookmakers in Ireland. Based on the 2017 performance figures provided by the three leading ELBA members licensed and active in Ireland, their total combined draw-based betting turnover was €1.4 million, a mere 0.25% of the €559 million draw-based sales turnover achieved by the national lottery in the same period. Rather than damaging good causes funding, the report found that the long-term presence of these operators actually should have a beneficial impact by creating more competition, choice and innovation in what otherwise might be effectively a monopolised market.
The report found that a decline of €43 million, or 16%, in good causes funding from the national lottery occurred in the past decade. It was €268 million in 2008 and €225 million in 2017. The ELBA contends that to suggest that online lottery betting presents any meaningful threat to good causes funding from the national lottery is factually incorrect and that the sustainability of good causes funding requires a broader analysis, including in respect of the treatment of unclaimed prizes associated with the national lottery, which is another issue. I appreciate that the Senators may point out that this report was commissioned by an interested party, and that would be a fair observation. However, in the interests of transparency and clarity, it should also be pointed out that the text of a Bill submitted by the national lottery to my Department in 2018, the text of the National Lottery (Protection of Central Fund) Bill 2018, a Private Members' Bill initiated by Deputy Jim O'Callaghan in September 2018, and the text of amendment No. 12 are essentially the same.
The essence of the proposal from the Senators is to enhance the monopoly position of the private operator of the national lottery by ending the currently licensed possibility for licensed bookmakers, both land-based and remote, to offer bets on the outcome of the national lottery draws. Should such a proposition be accepted, I foresee legal uncertainty and potential challenges from such bookmakers. I am not aware of advice to suggest that the outcome of weekly national lottery draws are somehow sacrosanct and exempt from being bet upon.
Such is the position with football matches or races. I may bet on their outcome without hindrance by the organisers of the event, and I am aware of no argument to suggest that the national lottery draw numbers are afforded some special form of intellectual property protection. A particular concern of mine would be that if this amendment were to be accepted, how long it might be before we see a suggested amendment to the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1979 to prohibit the local lotteries that support our sports clubs and community organisations. A similar argument could be made that they impact on the turnover of the national lottery. I do not believe that Senators would countenance this possibility. For the reasons I have outlined, the Government position must continue to be opposed to this proposal. The advice of the Office of the Attorney General is in agreement with this position.
The Minister has neatly batted away the two amendments we are discussing quite convincingly. The first was on the grounds that if a Government amendment is accepted, this matter will be resolved. That is fairly satisfactory, and one assumes that this Government amendment will pass. The second was because he does not have responsibility. It is not part of his ministerial responsibility so that seems to be that. However, I would make a couple of comments on what the Minister of State said. The national lottery gained €805 million last year, as I understand it, and I am sure I will be corrected if I am wrong. First, that shows there is an enormous amount of gambling going on in the country. It is a huge, vast sum of money. The usual little caveats are put in when advertising it, telling people to please gamble responsibly, which is a bit like telling people to please drink responsibly. There was €805 million and the Minister of State said that €225 million went on good causes. That leaves an enormous gap of nearly €600 million. Can the Minister of State tell us where this money goes? That is an enormous amount of money and it suggests that only about a quarter of the money generated goes to good causes. Therefore, three quarters go somewhere else. That is rather worrying.
The points made by the Minister of State are very relevant. In the context of the debate and the amendment, we cannot ignore that there has been an increase in gambling, for whatever reason. The previous section was dealing with the issue in terms of the report, but my concern is that this is no longer about using one's identification at the door of a casino and walking in and gambling. This is about access to gambling in our pockets, on our screens and on our devices. That is the concern many of us have. To be fair to the Minister of State, he has been very proactive in the matter. I hope we can come back to speak at the end of the Bill as to its overarching principle. Is that permissible?
We are dealing with amendments Nos. 1 and 12 at the moment.
Will we be allowed come back in at the end of the Bill?
Yes. Someone may make a brief comment when we have concluded Committee Stage, but this is not Second Stage either.
I know that.
The UK Gambling Commission claims that there are 25,000 children between the ages of 11 and 16 who are problem gamblers, and many of them are learning to gamble and bet online. That means they are using their computer games, and to be fair to the Minister of State again, he has met with myself on the whole issue of loot boxes and with a friend of mine, Mr. Eoin Barry, who has been doing work on the issue of loot boxes and social media. The big worry I have is that in using online gambling and the lottery, we are sleepwalking into future problems because we are giving people a habit. I will come back again in a minute if that is okay.
The issue of us turning around and restricting local lotteries is a fairly tenuous argument. What we are aiming to do here in amendment No. 12 is to deal with unregulated offshore companies which are providing this service where one can bet on the outcome of our lottery. There is no benefit to the State at all in people being allowed to bet on the outcome of our national lottery. None whatsoever. We would prefer that they bear in mind that a large amount of the money that is placed on the national lottery when people put in their numbers does go to the national lottery operator. I would not be in favour of that, but at least a proportion of the money goes to charities and causes which we can all support, whereas none of the money that is put forward by betting companies when they put out those betting terms on the outcome of the national lottery comes to the State, whether in taxes or in money to charities. We are not proposing in any way, shape or form to do anything else other than make sure it is part of a betting licence that the holder does not offer the opportunity to bet on the outcome of the national lottery. If people want to bet on the national lottery, they can do so and there is some benefit to the State. If they want to bet on the outcome of soccer matches, rugby matches or horse racing, that is what betting offices do.
This deals with the national lottery in particular, but Senator Buttimer has pointed out the issue of online gambling, all of which is disastrous. It is really bad for society because of the fact that it is on one's phone. There was a man on the radio this morning who used to bet on his laptop as he was driving to work. This was from before the app was available. That is how addictive gambling is, and now it is available on one's phone. I know people in my own town and there are people in every town in the country where this is a huge problem. Before, there was some restriction in the fact that one had to physically go in to a betting office. In this particular element we are not talking about silver bullets. This is incremental. We have to look at each place where it can be made more regulated regarding the benefit to the State. Speaking specifically on this amendment, offshore companies offering bets on the outcome of our national lottery is of zero benefit to the State. That is what we are trying to do with this particular amendment, and we are not trying to do anything other than that. There are many other amendments we would like to see where the opportunity for problem gambling is restricted.
I have spoken to people in Paddy Power, who are watching this as we go. The dark art works in such a way that they target people. They know the person who is a problem gambler by the size of his initial bet, and then they put bets in front of him. They have an individual operator controlling the games, and knowing that that person is a problem gambler, they know that if they do the following, which they have worked it out mathematically, it will entice him to bet again and again. That used to be the problem if one went to Las Vegas, but Las Vegas is on everyone's phone now. The State has a responsibility to protect citizens from themselves. In this amendment we are trying to protect the State so that the money goes to the national lottery, a proportion of which goes to good causes, and that people cannot bet on the outcome of the national lottery. We want to stop that. If people are going to bet on the national lottery they must put their money down on the outcome by picking their numbers. That is simply what we are trying to do in this amendment and nothing else. It is of some benefit to the State.
While I sympathise with the intention of Senator Mark Daly's amendment as I understand it, which is, among other things, to control online betting from this country with companies that are registered offshore, I am not sure that is possible. It is very difficult to control the Internet and I am not sure what control this country would have over a company. I do not see how we can force the company to pay tax and I am not sure how the Government or the authorities would come into possession of information that somebody had actually gambled using this method. Perhaps it is possible, but I have heard the argument made many times that it is impossible to control online gambling and companies that are registered outside of this country. If it is possible, of course it should be done, but I do not believe it is.
While the Minister of State said that it is not within his remit, we are saying that any legislation is within the Government's remit, whether it be cross-departmental or not. What we are aiming to do is to make it a condition of the bookmaker's licence that they cannot offer that product.
They cannot offer the ability to bet-----
One will have to get it directly online from the offshore company.
One needs a licence to operate within the jurisdiction. Even if a company is outside the jurisdiction - and this is the result of being behind the curve regarding the Internet - and if it becomes a condition of a bookmaker's licence to operate within this jurisdiction, it cannot lay a bet on the outcome of the national lottery.
The offshore companies have done so.
Then they must be shut down. One can find anything online if one wants. A condition of a bookmaker's licence should be not to lay a bet on the outcome of our national lottery. We are adding this provision to the licensing requirements for bookmakers in order that they would no longer be allowed to do so. The Minister of State has pointed out that this does not come within his remit but as we are discussing the Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill we are saying it should be. As the Senator Norris will be aware, legislation is often cross-departmental and amends other Acts, and that is what we are trying to do here. We want to make it a condition under the licence that bookmakers cannot offer a bet on the outcome of our national lottery because there is no benefit for the State, especially when it comes to offshore betting. If an offshore bookmaker is laying bets on the outcome of our national lottery, it is the State's responsibility to say it is breaking the law and, therefore, its site would have to be unavailable in Ireland. Companies can have their sites wherever they want but we need to control the world wide web as it pertains to Ireland when our laws are being breached, which I know is difficult to do. The world wide web offers loads of services that are illegal in this State and that is where the other element-----
We tried the same with alcohol advertising-----
-----and it proved not to be possible.
The intent is to address this because there is no benefit to the State.
We will have to consider appointing a Minister with responsibility for the Internet because the Internet is part of daily life. Many people conduct most of their business online so issues such as this will become significant. The Minister of State said this area cannot be addressed by this legislation but it should be possible for the State to regulate it. If the technology exists to actively target a particular group, it equally exists to actively avoid it and, therefore, companies should be compelled in this regard. We have heard a great deal about this at the Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs when it came to the targeting of children with advertisements for alcohol, confectionery and so on.
This issue has nothing to do with alcohol.
No. People said they could not do it but it can be done.
So the Minister, on that occasion, misled the House.
No. I do not know what the Senator is talking about exactly. The technology exists to target certain groups with advertising on the Internet and, conversely, if companies play ball, the technology exists to actively avoid them. Whether that is physically possible to enforce is another day's work but it is technically possible and the option should be explored by the Department. We come across this a lot when it comes to the Internet. Other states in Europe have done this but we need to consider creating a ministerial post so that a Minister is responsible for the Internet because so much of life is online now, and will protect citizens.
I support Senator Noone's message regarding the need for a different approach and setting up a Department. The initiative is interesting for a number of reasons. First, there is the issue of digital safety or Internet usage. The Acting Chairman will tell me that I cannot name people but I refer to the way in which Facebook, Twitter or whoever interacts with either the US Congress or with us here in Ireland. Deputy Hildegarde Naughton is the Chair of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment. She along with other committee members met Mark Zuckerberg but they had to do across the road; they did not meet in Leinster House. I am sure the keyboard warriors are ready to start typing.
They are typing.
This is not just about protecting children; it is also about protecting vulnerable adults. Even though the world is being made smaller and more accessible and information is at our fingertips, it is important that we consider a few issues. To be fair, the Minister of State deserves immense credit for the work that he has put into this issue----
-----the approach he has adopted and for all of the consultation that he and his officials have engaged in. Anybody who uses his or her phone, laptop or iPad to go on YouTube or Facebook, advertisements will appear, as Senator Noone said. If it is a casino advertisement, there will be temptation to click on it. What happens then? One could be opening a Pandora's box. That is fine on one level but not on another level. How does one regulate the use of these ads? One needs to regulate access to these ads because there is none. Recently, I travelled on a train where I saw people watch and gamble on virtual racing as opposed to the 2.30 p.m. race at Leopardstown racecourse, which is located close to the home of the Acting Chairman. From my perusal of legislation, there does not appear to be provision for regulation on the odds or the obligation to pay out for a win.
Regarding the national lottery, the licence was sold. This issue is a minefield and I support Senator Noone's call for technology to not just block the ads but for a governmental change in terms of how we interact with the Internet. It is something that we have to address. While climate change has become the issue of a generation, we are sleepwalking into problems associated with gambling addiction. I am concerned for the future as I have learned a bit about gambling addiction. Similarly to Deputy Martin Heydon in the Dáil and the Minister of State, I have spoken to people about the issue and this legislation is a very good start. However, the future must be circled as well.
I again thank Senators for their contributions and acknowledge the sincerity and seriousness by which colleagues here take this significant issue.
This Bill is interim legislation. As I have said here previously and in the other House as well, we are working hard on bringing forward a Bill to regulate the entire sector and to set up a gambling regulator. That is a very large piece of work and we expect to employ more than 100 people. Recently I held a seminar where we brought everyone associated with this area together, including those involved in the industry and in all of the problem gambling centres and treatment facilities. All of the individuals and groups made a contribution. We are listening to all of them and everybody wants a regulator. Our aim is to establish a national regulator for gambling that is underpinned by legislation and we are serious about the issue. Recently I secured permission from the Government to go ahead with the initiative and we have support for that from both Houses. We are all working together and I am open to suggestions and proposals for how to move this forward. We have also engaged with colleagues from different parts of the world that have a regulator in place.
As Senators Noone, Buttimer and others have noted this particular area changes by the day with technology, artificial intelligence, the Internet and so on. It is very challenging and difficult. However, we are working hard on it and we are determined to go ahead and get it done.
Amendment No. 1 is not required as we already have a reference to the 1931 Act in a later Government amendment. It pertains to that and that only. If that amendment is passed, it is covered, and if it is not passed, there is no need for this. I ask that would be withdrawn.
On amendment No. 12, Senator Mark Daly is correct that the licensing companies do pay the licence fee and a 2% turnover tax. Some five or six companies do this. The national lottery is a very big advertiser compared with the companies that are allowing or promoting betting on the numbers. The national lottery is a monolith. It is massive in comparison. I am concerned that this legislation is not the place to do this. I know what the Senator said and I acknowledge that it can be done if we want to but this is not the place to do so. It was not the intention of the Bill, which is to update the 1956 Act in certain areas to remove uncertainty in the courts and in the system about stakes and prizes and raise the age to 18 years across the board, which everyone agrees with, as well as a few other technical things which were needed immediately. We are anxious to move this through. I am concerned that if we accept the amendment we might delay the Bill, and I want it to pass before the summer recess if possible.
The issue of the national lottery is a matter for the Minister of Public Expenditure and Reform. It is his particular responsibility. We are in discussions with him on the regulation of all gambling and whether all gambling regulation should come under the auspices of a gambling regulator in time. That is part of the discussions we are having. It was proposed when the lottery was first established and its regulator was established. I suggest that is when we can look at this legislation but this Bill is not designed for that. It is not focusing on the national lottery which is not under the remit of the Department of Justice and Equality but of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The Minister recently debated this issue with colleagues in the Dáil. He has not come down on any particular view on this point yet. I ask that we park the amendment for now as it is not really part of the Bill, so that we can proceed with the Bill and have it enacted. We can keep the conversation and the debate open on the wider area of gambling. I know Senator Norris has a real personal interest, for which I thank him, on problem gambling. I acknowledge that this is a huge issue in Ireland and is something we are very aware of. If someone has an addition, it could be argued that it is also a health matter and that they need health and treatment in that regard, so the Department of Health and the HSE would come into play.
The regulation of gambling can help a bit - it can make it fairer - and things can be done around it, which is another day's work, but that only goes so far. I would not like to give the impression that establishing a gambling regulator would solve all the problems around gambling and gambling addition. I have had discussions and meetings with colleagues in other jurisdictions which have had very robust gambling commissions and regulators for some time but they still have serious issues with problem gambling. I am not saying a regulator would not have some impact - it would - but I want to caution against it being seen as a panacea or a silver bullet for problem gambling because it is not. If someone has an addition, he or she will find a way around it. We are talking about self-exclusion registers. I have discussed this with others in other jurisdictions and they have big question marks over these. A person might self-exclude from five different agents but not from the sixth and they will find a way. There are things we can do with a regulator but if someone has a problem with gambling, he or she needs to get treatment and help because it is a health matter. We should focus on that end, although we need to have a regulator as well.
I thank colleagues for the debate and discussion but I ask that this amendment would not be pressed now. Let us keep the question open. It is not crucial to move it forward now but the context of the overall gambling regulation and legislation that we are working on is probably the better time to have that discussion and debate.
I commend the Minister of State on his last comment that there is no silver bullet. He is right. We require a whole-of-government approach. As the Minister of State noted, it is a matter of health, education, and justice, and ultimately it is about changing minds. One can have all the regulation and regulators in the world but one must change the human condition and the culture. When a person lands in Las Vegas, the first thing he or she will encounter is slot machines at the carousel in the airport. It is the culture. It is not only the casino or the betting shop that we must worry about but online gambling. The Minister of State's remarks were the most pertinent point we have heard all day. It is about those things I mentioned, but it is also about all of us collectively changing our mindsets and having role models who have the courage to talk about their experiences, their past and leading us in how we can change behaviour.
Will the Minister of State address the concerns I expressed about the apparent fact that only a quarter of the lottery proceeds go to good works and where the rest of it, the €600 million, goes? That seems like a very poor return.
Following what Senator Buttimer said, there is no silver bullet, we all know that, but the fact that there are gambling machines in the airport in Las Vegas is down to a lack of regulation. If they are not there, people do not bet. If they were in Dublin Airport, would people use them? Of course they would, but the reason we do not allow them in Dublin Airport is that we do not want to encourage it. The State's role is one of protecting citizens from themselves in many cases.
There was a situation at one stage, as Minister of State will be aware, where citizens were able to buy synthetic drugs and we introduced legislation to shut down these establishments so that they could not sell them. The lack of availability meant that there was less uptake. I knew parents in Killarney who thought that it was okay to buy synthetic cocaine because it was available in the shop. They thought that because it was available. We knew it was bad for citizens, but they were buying it for their children because their attitude was, God help us, that if the State was allowing it to be sold, then it must be okay. We had to shut the shops down, which the State did, and that was the State acting to protect citizens from themselves. Something that was very harmful, all manner of synthetic drugs, was available because we had not made our way around the legislation.
It is interesting that the Minister said that the idea of a regulator was discussed when the national lottery was being set up, which was more than 30 years ago. The regulator is not in place yet and we are still talking about it. We should use any vehicle we can to make changes to protect citizens, although this amendment is to protect the State. I believe we are all in agreement on the issue of problem gambling. The more opportunities that people have to gamble, the more opportunities there are to create problem gamblers. Australia is a great example of that where it is possible to bet inside a pub. We do not allow it in Ireland and this is because it has creates problems.
Obviously, the ability to make a good judgment when one has taken alcohol is diminished and therefore we do not allow it. That is to protect the citizen from himself or herself. The problem now is that one can bet from one's phone and one can do it from anywhere. That requires regulation in whatever shape or form we can do it. The individual is up against a monolith when it comes to online gambling. These people are hiring the best actuaries, the best in terms of trying to draw as much money out of people as possible. That is not what this amendment is about.
This amendment is a minor amendment on the issue of those who are offering people the opportunity to bet on the outcome of the national lottery. I know we have drifted into other areas but I think there is no silver bullet. This is not the silver bullet either, it is just one more area instead of the money going outside the State when people bet on the outcome of the lottery. If they are going to bet on the lottery, they bet on the lottery and there is some return. I agree with Senator Norris when he talks about some but limited return in terms of the amount of money that is bet on the national lottery compared with the amount of money that goes to the good causes. There is a significant gulf but at least some of the money goes to good causes whereas none of the money spent on the betting on the outcome of the lottery comes to the State in any way, shape or form to be redistributed to good causes.
Let me respond to Senator Norris's question. The national lottery is the big one, the sums of money are enormous. The rest of the money goes on prizes, administration and advertising. It is a major advertiser.
Senator Mark Daly has acknowledged that in order to offer a betting service in Ireland, one must be licensed. If one is licensed one has to pay taxes and licensing fees. Those companies pay licensing fees and taxes here, so they are actually contributing to the State in that way. It is a tiny element.
We might prevent the betting on the national lottery, but that will not prevent people from betting on the Italian lottery, the English lottery and all the other lotteries. It will just stop betting on the national lottery and people will continue to bet. This Bill was not designed initially to do that. While I agree that one can bring in amendments and change the Bill, the thrust of the Bill is different. I ask Members to wait until we bring the major legislation, which we are working very hard on and setting up a lottery, which is a mammoth task. The Senator is very astute in pointing out that it is a significant task.
The industry in all its manifestations states it wants regulation. It said that again in Farmleigh House a couple of weeks ago when more than 120 people attended a seminar and none said he or she did not want regulation. Everybody wants regulation. There is nobody pushing against it. We are getting no lobbying about not having regulation. The industry wants it. We are anxious to move it forward as quickly as we can, but it is a significant job of work. I want to get it right this time. I ask Senators, with respect, that we have debated this important issue but it is not a significant issue in the overall scheme of things. In the overall scheme, Senator Norris is correct, the national lottery is extremely successful, massive sums of money are being made compared with what this amendment will address, which is tiny.
I think this is not the Bill to do this. I hope that answers the questions.
I wish to pursue the Minister of State a little further but I quite understand if he does not have the answers immediately to hand. Will he give us some information either now or by dropping me an email on the amount that is spent on prizes and how much is spent on advertising. I have a feeling that there is enormous profit for the company running the lottery. I was very much against privatising the lottery.
The lottery is run by a private company, so it is private. I am not sure whether that information is publicly available. We can endeavour to see if we can get that information. It is a private operation. It is a large successful operation.
I presume it has to register its profits with the Revenue.
I think the Minister of State has made a very compelling case to the House in terms of the need to allow the amendment to lapse because it is the wrong place, anti-competitive, and in terms of marketing activity. I appeal to Senator Mark Daly and to Fianna Fáil not to press the amendment. I think the Minister of State has made a good point and a very compelling case. I support him in that.
Is the amendment being pressed?
- Black, Frances.
- Conway-Walsh, Rose.
- Craughwell, Gerard P.
- Daly, Mark.
- Horkan, Gerry.
- Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
- Mullen, Rónán.
- Norris, David.
- Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
- Warfield, Fintan.
- Burke, Colm.
- Burke, Paddy.
- Buttimer, Jerry.
- Byrne, Maria.
- Coffey, Paudie.
- Coghlan, Paul.
- Conway, Martin.
- Lawless, Billy.
- Lawlor, Anthony.
- Lombard, Tim.
- McFadden, Gabrielle.
- Mulherin, Michelle.
- Noone, Catherine.
- Ó Céidigh, Pádraig.
- O'Donnell, Kieran.
- O'Mahony, John.
- O'Reilly, Joe.
- Reilly, James.
On a point of order, I was told recently that I could not move an amendment as I had been asked to do by the Labour Party, which is part of the Technical Group of which I am also a part. I understand Senator Mark Daly's name is not on the amendment and I believe no communication was made with the Cathaoirleach's office. That reinforces my point that this is the noxious introduction of a completely new and arbitrary rule and I object to it. It has never been done before.
Apparently it is a long-standing rule and practice of the House.
I have been a Member for over 30 years and I do not remember it.
That does not mean the Senator is right.
If it is a party, as in the case of Senator Mark Daly, the Chair will normally allow that.
I am a member of the Technical Group.
There is a distinction that we all accept between a group and a party.
That is rubbish. You are equivocating. It is nonsense.
Respect the Chair. It is independent.
The Senator should have respect for the House.
Stop squeaking and interrupting like a clockwork mouse.
Stop being personal just because the Senator is wrong.
This is the last I will say on the matter. It is a long-standing practice of the Chair, whether you agree or disagree with it.
It is not.
I am moving on.
The Senator does not know everything.
It is open to the Members to change Standing Orders. If they wish to do so they can write to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.
It is not in Standing Orders.
It is in Standing Orders.
The basic rule is in Standing Orders and it is up to the Cathaoirleach to decide how to apply it. I am merely enforcing a precedent that has generally been observed in the House. I am moving on.
Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 are related and may be discussed together.
Amendment No. 2 is a textual amendment removing a full stop to reflect the fact that a further definition is being proposed for insertion. Amendment No. 3 is occasioned by section 7 of the Bill, which inserts a new section 19A in the principal Act. In the proposed new section 19A(3)(d) there is a reference to relevant officers. This is based on the comparable provisions in sections 8A(2)(d) and 8B(2)(c) of the Betting Act 1931, as amended. While the term "relevant officer" is defined in section 1 of the Betting Act 1931, there is no similar definition in the principal Act, which is the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956. This omission is now being addressed by providing for a similar definition in section 2 of the Bill as is already contained in section 1 of the Betting Act 1931.
In the United States the Loot Box Bill has been introduced by Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri on the issue of gaming. It has bipartisan support, and such agreement is rare in America. We must try to work with the gaming industry to deliver innovative and compelling changes regarding loot boxes. There is nothing innovative or compelling about loot boxes - it is gambling. If one looks at the psychology used to market gambling, the laws regarding gaming are less scrutinised. It is important that we examine the issue of e-gambling and loot boxes in order that there can be more regulation. The issue of permits and licences arises here so we can adapt to and work within the digital space more easily and effectively to ensure children and vulnerable people are protected and that anybody who participates in e-gambling will be treated fairly. As I said earlier, the casinos of tomorrow will not be only on the high street. They will be on our screens and in our pockets.
Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 are related and may be discussed together.
Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 are related, as amendment No. 8 is consequential on amendment No. 7. Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 may be discussed together, by agreement.
Amendments Nos. 10 and 13 are related as amendment No. 13 is consequential on amendment No. 10. Amendments Nos. 10 and 13 may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 11:
In page 16, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:
“Report on prevalence of problem gambling
26. The Minister shall, within three months of the passing of this Act, prepare and lay before the Oireachtas a report on the prevalence of problem gambling in Ireland.”.
We discussed this with regard to problem gambling and the Minister of State outlined some of the discussions he has had in Farmleigh and other places with various stakeholders. This amendment provides that within three months of the passing of the legislation, which is some time away, the Government will lay a report on problem gambling in Ireland before the Oireachtas. That comprehensive report would outline recommendations and actions.
I attended a good presentation on a report brought forward by Senator Ó Céidigh, which sets out how the issues faced by small and medium-sized businesses need to be tackled and contains in excess of 100 recommendations. As Senator Marshall has said, those recommendations should be grouped on the basis of timelines - those which could be done immediately, those which could be done in the medium term and those which could be done in the long term - and responsibility for implementing them should be allocated to specified bodies. Rather than merely setting out recommendations, all reports which contain recommendations should also allocate responsibility for implementing those recommendations and set out timelines for their implementation. I ask the Minister of State to accept the amendment.
I support this amendment. Three months seems like quite a short time. I take it that there would be no requirement to take account of the operation of the Bill. It is not dealing with the operation of the Bill; it is dealing with the problem of people having an addiction to gambling. I support that strongly. I imagine that the Minister of State will support it too.
We are on Committee Stage and we are not likely to get beyond that today. If this amendment is passed, it will put the Government on notice that it will have three months from the date on which this Bill is enacted, which is months away yet. We are setting a tight timeline. Much of the work, including the consultation with stakeholders, has started. The issue here is the setting of a tight timeline. We could provide for a six-month timeline and change it on Report Stage. The Government has six months, in effect, because it will be at least three months before this Bill is signed by the President and enacted. This provision will come into effect three months from that date. The timeline could extend to 12 months depending on what the Minister of State would like to do. He might say in his reply that this is about changing the 1956 Act. When the national lottery was being established more than 30 years ago, it was suggested that there might be a regulator. There is still no regulator. We should wait for more discussion on a regulator. The report that will be drawn up if this proactive amendment to the Bill is accepted will outline the problems with betting and lottery activity. We all know that such problems exist. We need to make sure we put in place a report that will be enacted. Actions will have to be put in place by the Government on foot of the report. I am seeking to include in legislation a requirement for the Government to put a report together, rather than promising that a report will be put together.
I acknowledge the thrust and intention of the Senator's amendment. I have some good news for him. I share with Senators-----
I am delighted to hear good news.
The Senator will be even more delighted in a minute. I hope we can have a meeting of minds on this. There are deep concerns about the best way to address the issue of harmful gambling, which has an impact on the lives of people who are addicted, on their families and on wider society. There is no doubt that we all share these concerns. I agree that we must seek to better understand the issues involved and to obtain credible evidence of the nature and extent of the problems arising from gambling, which is a large and complex activity. As we said earlier, increasingly it is taking place in an online environment.
On 27 February last, this House debated a motion relating to the report of the interdepartmental working group on the future licensing and regulation of gambling, which was impending at that time. During that debate, I mentioned that the drug prevalence survey for 2014-15 had been published by the Minister of State with responsibility for health promotion and the national drug strategy, Deputy Catherine Byrne, and myself. The survey, which represented the first set of data on the extent of gambling in Ireland, was based on fieldwork carried out between August 2014 and August 2015. This general population survey of more than 7,000 people was a collaborative project between the national advisory committee on drugs and alcohol and the public administration and health research branch of the Department of Health in Northern Ireland. Ipsos MRBI in Ireland carried out the fieldwork on this occasion. My Department contributed to the costs of the survey, which provided a baseline of data to assist in policy formulation and future planning and action on gambling. The survey found that the prevalence of problem gambling in the general population was 0.8% and that problem gambling was most common among young males, occurring in 1.9% of males between the ages of 18 and 24 and 2.9% of males between the ages of 25 and 34.
The Senator is probably ahead of himself in some of this. This is usual and not surprising. The good news is that the Health Research Board, HRB, is undertaking a 2018-19 prevalence study to assist in policy formulation, planning and action in this area. The results of this survey, which are expected in 2020, will contain a specific section on gambling prevalence with an extended range of questions. The Departments of Justice and Equality and Health are contributing to the cost of the study. The Senator is ahead of the game in proposing this. I am sure he will be pleased to know it is happening already.
Senators should note that neither I nor the Department of Justice and Equality has direct responsibility for the wide range of interests concerned with gambling, problem gambling or addiction generally. Such responsibility rests with my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne, and the Department of Health. Problem gambling and, in particular, gambling addiction are health matters. Somebody who needs treatment for an addiction must go down that route. We can do a certain amount through regulation - we can help and assist - but if someone has a serious addiction, it is a health issue.
While I welcome the concern and intention behind the amendment, I believe the work that is being done by the HRB will address the concerns that exist. A great deal of money is being spent on the survey, which is already happening. I cannot see any circumstances in which the amendment could be achieved with the resources and expertise currently available to my Department. It is again a health issue. As I have said, a survey is happening. It is not sensible to engage a professional market research company at considerable expense to conduct further research, particularly when the Departments of Health and Justice and Equality are contributing in a significant way to the 2018-19 prevalence study, which is under way. The research the Senator is looking for is happening. In light of this, I ask him to consider withdrawing his amendment and to await the results of the prevalence study, which will come out around the time envisaged by the Senator. His support for this initiative would be welcome.
I welcome the news that a survey is being done, or that there is talk about it being done.
It is being done. It is happening now.
It will come out in 2020.
Yes, it will.
Experienced Senators such as Senator Norris and I will be aware that there is no measurement of the outcome or impact of much of the legislation that is passed in this House. Such measurement should take place. According to an expression that is used in business, "If it is not being measured, it is not being done". We often fail to measure whether legislation that has been passed by this House is being implemented. We need to consider the impact that such legislation is having and whether it needs to be amended to make sure it has the intended impact. I will give some brief examples. As a result of legislation that was passed by the Oireachtas more than 20 years ago, the courts have the power to put electronic tags on people who are out on parole or on early release. However, the necessary statutory instruments were never put in place by the Department of Justice and Equality. We are still talking about electronic tagging. Legislation passed by this House is not being implemented by the Government.
The Minister of State will be more aware of the next example I will mention. The Irish Sign Language Act 2017 gives the Government three years to put in place structures to enable members of the deaf community to access Government services. The Act requires all Departments to put in place interpreting facilities and systems to facilitate any member of the deaf community who arrives at an accident and emergency unit, appears before a court or calls into a Garda station. There are 12 months of that three-year period left, but no provision has been made by any Department to date. We insisted that the legislation would provide for a three-year implementation period. In 2020, when the next 12 months have passed, the Government will be breaking the law. Timelines are important because things do not get done without them.
If the Bill required the Government to undertake a report without placing a timeline on it, I guarantee that the report may or may not be done in 2020. It might be an idea to make a further amendment so that there would be a report on problem gambling every year. The recommendations made in a previous year's report and on which we all agreed could be analysed by the Houses and we could ask what had or had not been implemented. That is measurement of progress. We have had too many reports that have made recommendations but on which there was no follow-up. That is why we are insisting on the inclusion of a reference to a report, with all of the recommendations such a report would have, being compiled by the Government within three months of the Bill's passage. All too often, issues are placed on the back burner and are not addressed.
The Senator is relatively unimpressed with the good news.
To be clear, I am delighted with the good news. We all like to have something in writing, but I would prefer this measure to be included in legislation so that not only will promises be made in this House, but they will also be delivered on.
Is the Minister of State's word not good enough?
For a man who was involved in a Seanad campaign, Senator Conway should know that someone's word is often not as good as it should be.
This Minister of State is different.
I was not talking about him. I was talking about other people's word. As the Leas-Chathaoirleach knows, people's word is not always their bond when it comes to Seanad campaigns. That was my point. I know the Minister of State well from other areas. I fully take on board what he has promised and I am sure it will happen. I just want it provided for in legislation that, if he is moved higher up the ranks and promoted, as he might well be due to the current Government problems-----
-----the person who inherits his job will be forced to publish the report regardless of whether he or she wants to.
I take the Senator's point, but significant moneys are already being expended by the Department of Health and my Department on the prevalence study, which does not just relate to gambling, but also drugs. We are serious about this. The Senator is right about the need to measure. The money is being spent and the study is happening right now. As soon as it is ready, it will be published. We are all anxious to see and discuss it. The amendment risks forcing us to undertaking a second study in parallel that duplicates the other and wastes money.
There is no need for it.
What the Senator is looking for is already happening. There is no need for the amendment. I respectfully ask him to withdraw it. Let us not waste money. Let the work that is under way continue and let us get on with the business.
That report is the one we want. We do not want another one. We are just trying to put in writing that it will happen.
It is happening.
I know, but the Minister of State should bear something in mind. I do not know which report on Seanad reform we are on at the moment. There is one thing about reports-----
There is a risk that we could double the money to do the same thing.
We want it stated in legislation that this report will be done. I am not asking the Minister of State to duplicate the ongoing report. I am just saying that it is the report we want and that we want its production within three months of the Bill's passage stated in legislation. As the Minister of State pointed out, some surveys were done in 2015 and their reports came three years later. We need the reports to be actioned on the basis of current information, which the Minister of State says is being compiled now. I am delighted to hear that, but we would like to see the report published in a timely manner. Just to be clear, I am not asking for it to be duplicated or for more money to be spent. That money is already being spent and we just want to make sure the report is published.
Is the Senator withdrawing his amendment?
- Black, Frances.
- Conway-Walsh, Rose.
- Daly, Mark.
- Horkan, Gerry.
- Kelleher, Colette.
- Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
- Mullen, Rónán.
- Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
- Burke, Colm.
- Burke, Paddy.
- Buttimer, Jerry.
- Byrne, Maria.
- Coffey, Paudie.
- Coghlan, Paul.
- Conway, Martin.
- Craughwell, Gerard P.
- Lawless, Billy.
- Lawlor, Anthony.
- Lombard, Tim.
- Marshall, Ian.
- McFadden, Gabrielle.
- Mulherin, Michelle.
- Noone, Catherine.
- Norris, David.
- O'Donnell, Kieran.
- O'Mahony, John.
- O'Reilly, Joe.
- Reilly, James.