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.