I thank colleagues for their questions. I will do my best to respond to them. If I miss something, they might remind me of it.
Deputy Pringle asked about GAA clubs and so on. These amendments have nothing to do with any of them, so there is no cause for concern there.
A number of colleagues asked about timelines and so on. I said in my opening remarks that we would not see the heads of the Bill this year. I hope to have them early next year. Not only have we to draft the very complex legislation, to which Deputy Sherlock has alluded - it is extremely complex and is changing almost by the month as more things happen - but on top of that we must set up an authority comprising perhaps 100 people. It will be very expensive and very complex to make sure we have all the right skill sets in place. Work on both these aspects is ongoing. There is no point in passing legislation without having the regulatory authority in place to enforce it, regulate it, research it and so forth. I hope to have the heads of Bill prepared and ready to roll early next year. At the same time, we are working on the structure of the authority and what it will look like. As soon as we have that information ready, I would be interested in coming before the committee and getting colleagues' views as to what we propose to do. If people have suggestions at that time, I would be interested in listening to them. That gives the committee an idea of progress on the main Bill and where we are with the authority. They are two mammoth tasks and they must happen together. It is not a case of one or the other.
Regarding private members' clubs, my understanding is that if all of us here decided to form such a club, under the Constitution we could go away and engage in gambling, provided we are members of a private members' club. This comes under what is understood as free association. That is what these clubs in effect facilitate. They are private clubs made up of members on a list who come in and do their business. They are also businesses, by the way, and they need regulating. When the main legislation comes forward there will be an opportunity for such businesses to apply for casino licences, as will be provided for in the legislation. Such licences will be regulated. This whole area will be taken up at that stage. If, however, we take these amendments on board now, we will be moving into regulation and recognising these almost as bona fide casinos. I am slow to do that at this point. I do not think any of us wants to do it now when we do not have the regulation in place. We would also in a way be inviting other groups to come forward to apply to become casinos.
That is the effect this legislation could have. The committee itself is not defined as to how it is made up, what it is to do, how it will be structured and so on, and there are other issues in the legislation. I am always open to considering colleagues' suggestions or questions on Report Stage, and I have listened carefully to what Deputy Ó Laoghaire has said. If, however, between now and Report Stage, which will be in the autumn, other issues arise, I will certainly be open to doing things then. I contend, however, that the amendment, as presented, does not fit into the current Bill, which is very much an interim measure. The amendment would also have other unintended consequences that I am concerned about.
When we do this, I want to do it properly under the full gamut of robust legislation that covers everything, as I think Deputy Sherlock also said. We also need a regulatory authority in place to enforce the current law, research it and investigate what is going on out there. I have heard of casinos in other jurisdictions that are quite profitable but they are in large countries. In the UK, I think they are not and the big casinos have not opened there. As my colleagues said, an awful lot of stuff is moving online, which is where we are focusing much of our attention.
When we talk abut gambling, the issue of problem gambling and addiction, rightly, always comes up. It has been argued that any of us here has a right to go out and gamble if we want to. It is a free country. However, if somebody has an illness or an addiction, that becomes a health matter. People with such an addiction need treatment, therapy and counselling. Regulation can only go so far in protecting and safeguarding people but, if someone has an addiction, we must be careful and recognise that person has an illness, a sickness and needs counselling, therapy and professional help.
We can do a certain amount through regulation to safeguard people we have discussed many options previously. I have been at this for quite a number of years now since the hearing of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, of which I was chair, in 2013 when the heads of the Gambling Control Bill were produced. Some of the stuff works and some does not. We will have to be careful when we talk about addiction. We can do a certain amount to make gambling less attractive and glamorous but we must also be careful to make it fair so that a properly tabulated and regulated machine has correct odds and is fair to gambling punters as a business transaction.
Those are the reasons I am open to reconsidering anything my colleagues bring forward on Report Stage but, at this time, I am afraid that my advice is not to accept them.