PRIVATE BUSINESS. - BETTING BILL, 1928—SECOND STAGE.

I move the Second Reading of this Bill. As Deputies will see, it is a very short Bill. Its purpose is to extend the life of the Betting Act, 1926, from the 1st November next until the 30th June next year. The Betting Act, 1926, was passed in consequence of the decision to impose the existing tax on betting. The Act provided for the registration of bookmakers and for the registration of bookmakers' premises, and other various incidental matters in connection with those two things. It provided also for the prohibition of betting with persons outside Saorstát Eireann and for power to set up totalisators, a power which has not yet been acted upon. The principal change it made was that it legalised ready-money betting. The other matters were much smaller. I need hardly at this stage go into the reasons why it was decided to make this change in the law. As the Bill passed through the Dáil it was intended to be a permanent Act, but in the course of the discussion in the Seanad I agreed that it was better to pass it first as a temporary Act in order that we might get some experience of its working, and an amendment was passed with my assent in the Seanad, and agreed to later by the Dáil, limiting the life of the Act to two years. A good deal of experience has been gained during those two years, and it seems to me that it will be necessary, before this Act is made permanent or continued for any great length of time, to make certain changes. Complaints have arisen, and in certain cases they have been justified, with regard to the manner in which betting establishments have been carried on. Complaints have also been made that in many cases the number of establishments which have come into being is too great.

Other points of a like character have arisen which will require the joint consideration, not only of the Revenue Commissioners and of my own Department, but also of the Department of Justice. It has not been possible for the people who are concerned in the two Departments to complete their examination, and, before an amending Bill is brought before the Dáil, it is felt that the best course is to extend the existing Act for a relatively short period—that is, until the 30th day of June next. If we were simply to allow the Act to lapse on the 1st November, a great deal of confusion would ensue.

As a matter of fact, you would have certain bookmakers, who carried on a credit business, liable to tax, and you would have bookmakers who carried on a cash business no longer entitled to carry on that legally. In consequence you would have undoubtedly a resurrection of the illegal betting shop, and an additional incentive for the setting up of the legal betting shop, because the legal men, whether on or off racecourses, would be subject to tax, while the people carrying on illegally would be subject to no tax. Other elements of confusion would arise, and it seems to me that whatever it may be decided ultimately to do with reference to the regulation of betting and betting establishments and of bookmakers, it would not be a practical thing to allow the Betting Act of 1926 simply to lapse on the 1st November. I am satisfied, and I have had consultation with the Department of Justice, that it will be possible to frame proposals for the amendment of the Principal Act in time to have them to put before the Dáil early in spring, and have sufficient time to have the matter considered before the Act as extended would lapse.

We had given a certain amount of consideration to this Bill before we heard what the Minister had to say about it and we were determined to oppose the Bill unless we got an assurance from the Minister that a committee would be set up, a Select Committee, to examine the whole question of the working of the Act. We realise that a permanent Act is likely to be produced fairly soon and we think that it would be very much better if members of the House had an opportunity of getting representation on a committee which would examine into the working of the Act. The Minister has indicated that he is aware of complaints that have been made with respect to the present position of betting. I am sure every member of the House has heard of these complaints also. They are, that abuses have cropped up and evils have arisen which every one of us ought to be anxious to prevent as far as possible. The main heads of the abuses are, first of all, that there are too many betting shops—leaving out the general question of betting—and there are big questions involved in it, —I am simply confining myself to the abuses—that it is too easy to get a betting licence, that the shops are crowded and that they are turned into miniature racecourses as far as the excitement of betting is concerned and that children are not excluded. These are points which indicate that an examination is necessary. Before we on this side of the House are prepared to agree to the extension of this Act for another year we want to have a definite promise from the Minister, not merely that he will introduce later some proposals of his own, but that he will set up a Select Committee consisting of members from different parts of the House to examine into this whole question which is certainly one that requires examination. I hope that the Minister will be able to give an assurance of that sort and that we will not be compelled to vote against the extension of this Act for a period. We realise that as the Act is terminating within a short time, as its period of operation is terminating within a very short space, that it is necessary to take action of some kind, and we are prepared to let the thing stand for the period the Minister mentioned provided we are satisfied that when that period is ended all Parties, our own Party included, will have an opportunity of thoroughly investigating the whole problem and the evils attendant on it.

I think there is a great deal in connection with what Deputy de Valera has said. I know endless misery has been caused by the opening of these betting shops all over the city. I believe the same applies to the country and I only hope that the Minister will consider the advisability of doing what Deputy de Valera has said; that is, appointing a committee of the House to consider the whole matter. There is nothing contentious in this. We all want to do the best we can for the country and there is nothing contentious about the matter.

I was about to say, when Deputy Murphy rose, that on the main points to which Deputy de Valera has replied I had already come to the conclusion that changes were necessary. I had come to the conclusion that we would have to take effective measures to prevent crowds gathering, and that children should not be allowed in, as at present, and that the number of houses in certain areas, at any rate, would have to be restricted. With reference to the point the Deputy made about a Select Committee, before Deputy Murphy spoke I was about to say that I do not want to treat this matter as a political matter in any way and if there was anything like a general desire amongst other Parties in the House to have a committee set up, I would certainly be agreeable. I take it from what Deputy Murphy has said that there are other people anxious for the same thing, and I agree to move for the setting up of a Select Committee when the Dáil reassembles in the autumn.

Will the Minister include in the terms of reference the consideration of the question of newspaper advertising of betting offices? I have here a paper called the "Nation," in which I notice the following:—"Sporting Chronicle S.P. No limit, singles; all other bets one hundred to one." I think the Committee should take into consideration the matter of the advertising of betting offices also.

I would like Deputy Cooper to inform the House, if the Minister did embody that proposal in the new Bill which, I hope, will result from the Committee's findings—the Committee that he has consented to set up—whether the advertising revenue of the "Irish Times" and the "Irish Independent" will not be much more seriously affected than the advertising revenue of the "Nation"?

It is, no doubt, of more bulk, but, as I am not a shareholder or in any way connected with those papers, I am not particularly worried; but in proportion to the general amount of advertising they might not be so seriously affected.

The point raised by Deputy Cooper might very well come before the Committee.

Question—"That the Bill be now read a Second Time"—put and agreed to.

In view of the nature of the Bill, I do not think there would be any objection to taking the other stages now. It is hardly worth while bringing them before the House on a number of occasions.

If this matter is dealt with by a Committee of the House, will it be possible to have evidence from people outside?

I think it would be necessary. I do not see how the Committee could carry on any investigation unless they had power to do so.

It could be a Select Committee that would have power to call for persons, papers and records.

Will the Minister also consider the question of betting in connection with greyhound racing, and have that also included?

Is it agreed that the remaining stages should now be taken?

The Dáil agreed.