Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 19 Jun 2019

Vol. 983 No. 8

Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill 2019 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed)

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I thought I would be sharing time but I am not sure that will apply. However, I probably will not take up my full speaking time.

I welcome that this legislation is being introduced and debated on Second Stage. The Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, and the House will be aware that for many years Fianna Fáil has been calling for legislation to regulate gambling. Unfortunately, the legislation before the House is not the type of legislation we want to see enacted. We believe there is need for much more thorough control and regulation of gambling. Regrettably, the legislation before us deals only with very small aspects of the issues concerning gambling that are problematic in this country. Notwithstanding this, Fianna Fáil will be supporting this legislation but we will be tabling amendments to it on Committee Stage, which we believe will improve the legislation. Hopefully, we will be able to have legislation enacted that will have the effect of increasing regulation in this industry which plays such a prominent part in Irish life and also, regrettably, creates so many problems for people in Irish society.

We spend a lot of our time in this Oireachtas enacting laws that seek to regulate the behaviour of individuals, be it laws that seek to restrict the speed at which people travel in motor vehicles, the amount of alcohol they consume if driving a car, the regulation of the sale of alcohol or the regulation of professions. We have a vast amount of legislation on our Statute Book dealing with the regulation of human behaviour. Where that regulation is most intrusive is when the State believes there are activities that are taking place which if left unregulated will inflict considerable damage on members of society. It is surprising that we have not regulated gambling in any great detail in this country. The legislation deals with the amendment of gambling legislation enacted in the 1950s. This shows that all of us have failed in our tasks to ensure there is a proper system of regulation in place. In fairness to the former Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter, he did introduce legislation in 2013 on which there were significant hearings on Committee Stage but, unfortunately, it was not enacted. That legislation appears to have stalled. There was also a significant delay in any further steps being taken to bring forth new legislation until recent times. I welcome that the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, who has displayed a considerable commitment to regulation of gambling, is here and leading this debate on behalf of the Government. I believe that unless there is a Minister in government who is committed to changing the law in this area and to ensuring there is proper regulation of gambling, it will not happen. I hope the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, is the Minister who will drive this on and that ultimately we will have thorough regulation of gambling.

Gambling is a broad business. There are many of us who like to gamble on horses, sporting events and so on. Many of us are able to do that without it inflicting any serious social harm upon us. Unfortunately, however, that is not the full story. The gambling industry likes to portray the business as being one where people can voluntarily participate in fun activity in the hope that they win a good amount of money and the only downside is that they will lose small amounts of money. Unfortunately, we all know in this House that is not the case. There are many people who have significant problems with gambling. This happens throughout the country. We know from research done in UCD that over 40,000 people in Ireland are known to have a gambling addiction, with single men under 35 most at risk. We know also that Ireland has the third highest per capita rate of gambling losses in the world. Where young men and women, in particular young men, are losing a lot of money on bets and on their gambling addiction that is a problem for society and we have to respond to it.

We all know people who had gambling problems years ago. The format of gambling has now changed because of the Internet. Years ago a man with a gambling problem would walk into a bookies and the worst that would happen is that he would spend all the money in his pockets for that day. Unfortunately, the threats and downsides of gambling are now much more considerable. Young people and middle-aged people are gambling online. They are given credit by bookies. They are able to bet amounts of money that they cannot afford. I would have thought the basic principle of gambling to be that one does not gamble an amount of money that one cannot afford to lose or would put one into gambling debt. We know that gambling is an addiction and that, unfortunately, many people bet large amounts of money which they simply cannot afford to pay. We have all heard tragic stories about people who have got involved in debts from gambling. This creates a spiral for them in that they have to try to get money from elsewhere. It gives rise to other addictive problems and it can also give rise to crime. We need to recognise that there is an urgency on Members of the Oireachtas to ensure that following the enactment of this legislation we put in place much more thorough gambling legislation.

We need a gambling control office. We need a regulatory office that can regulate the gambling profession. We need an office that is able to put in place statutory protections, guided by by-laws created by the regulator, that will have the effect of protecting people from themselves when it comes to their gambling addiction. We need to ensure that the business funds this office. Nobody in this House has an objection to businesses prospering and making profits but let us be clear about where the profits from gambling companies come. They come from, in the main, people who do not have that much money, who are gambling in the hope that should they win the bet their financial circumstances will be transformed for the better. We all know that in the vast majority of cases this does not happen and the effect of gambling is that it disimproves their financial position.

This legislation is welcome because it seeks to modernise the permit and licensing regime for local gaming and lottery activities. I note, however, it also seeks to increase the archaic stakes and prize limits for licensed gaming activities and machines. It is important that those limits are increased but there needs to be some protections for the people who are now going to be able to go into these premises and bet much more money. This is an area Fianna Fáil will be covering in our Committee Stage amendments. I am conscious as well that this legislation will standardise the age limit for participating in all activities under the Gaming and Lotteries Act and for betting with the tote at 18 years of age. It is extremely important that we try to protect children from the dangers of gambling. We all know the dangers that exist online for children in a wide variety of areas. In the area of gambling, we have to ensure that children do not get involved in the habit of gambling online at an early age.

I am conscious that the Minister of State will want to get this legislation enacted but he will, no doubt, accept that this is not the full answer to the problem of gambling in Ireland. There is a responsibility on all of us in this House to ensure that we put in place in the near future a statutory framework that will provide greater regulation and protection for individuals who have gambling addictions. On many occasions I have met people who have come to the Houses on behalf of different elements of the gambling industry. In fairness to them all, they all say they welcome the prospect of regulation. They say they want regulation. Around the world in other countries there is regulation. I suspect Ireland is being targeted because of its lack of regulation and because we appear to have a problem in terms of the number of people here with a gambling addiction.

Fianna Fáil will be supportive of the legislation but we will be tabling amendments on Committee Stage. I am sure the Minister of State will appreciate that there is much more to be done in respect of this issue. We cannot really say that as an Oireachtas we are protecting the public and advancing the public interest until such time as we have in place legislation that provides for a gambling regulator and protects all people from the dangers associated with the gambling industry.

Gambling addiction - I stress the word "addiction", not just regular gambling - has become a silent blight on modern Ireland. I do not think there is a town in the country that has not been adversely affected by this awful habit. That is a fact. However, the Government continues to stand idly by and allow this epidemic to spiral out of control. This is despite a Fianna Fáil options paper being published as far back as 2010. Instead of considering this paper, the Minister has opted to redraft the Bill which essentially will negate years of work that could just as easily be amended and agreed to. All the while, families are being destroyed as a result of gambling addiction. The figures are stark to the point of being frightening. There are towns and villages in west Cork that are devoid of a post office, a Garda station and other facilities. However, one can be sure there are facilities available for gambling. It has become all too easy and accessible. A sum of €5 billion was gambled in Ireland in 2016. Some 40,000 people in Ireland are recognised as gambling addicts, of whom 800 have sought help for their addiction. What about the others?

Further procrastination at this juncture is reckless. If we are to have any chance of reducing these figures, we have to act now. With online gambling having burst onto the scene in recent years, it is imperative that there be a system in place to curb the effects of the convenience of engaging in this form of gambling. We need to be in a position and have a system in place to help the people affected and their families. Behind every addict lies a family. Levies derived from the gambling industry need to be ring-fenced to pay for this. In short, we need regulation now. We acknowledge that the Government has agreed to the introduction of a gambling regulator, but it needs to be expedited.

I want to make a few comments on what is happening with gambling. I am not somebody who gambles. I might play cards, but I do not back horses. I recently had to go into a bookmaker's office to see somebody and could not believe what I was looking at. There were approximately 20 televisions on all the time. There was racing being shown from all over the world of dogs and horses, as well as football matches. I know that there are people who like to take a punt, go for "Lucky 15s" and so on. I hear about these things and sometimes they are lucky and sometimes not. There are certainly people gambling today who cannot afford to gamble, as we all realise. There should be help available to support them. I am aware of cases where families have been wiped out because of a member of the family gambling, especially online. I have seen families destroyed and businesses people had worked extremely hard to build up wiped out practically overnight because it was too late when the other spouse heard about it. The damage was done. It had gone too far. The banks moved in and the business was taken. I have noticed that happening.

One sees advertisements advising people to stop gambling when the fun stops. That is the greatest joke because that is not happening and will not happen. There should definitely be some responsibility placed on the industry. One hears of cases where an individual has gambled hundreds of thousands and is then in court. We see such people on television and hear them on radio, but we do not hear about the other cases. People have gambled hundreds of thousands and nobody shouted "Stop". I am sure the industry must be aware that when a particular person has a tendency to gamble €1,000 a week, nobody can afford it. I do not care what salary a person is on since nobody can afford it, but there does not seem to be any system in place to spot this and do something to try to stop it, or at least to identify and report a particular bookmaker's office where a person is spending that amount money to deal with and resolve the issue before it is too late. That is not happening. As far as I can see, there is no regulation in place or nobody within the industry cares how many families are destroyed, businesses are lost or about the hardship caused for many families.

I welcome whatever can be done. I understand online gambling transactions will be taxed because I do not think there is any tax derived from the industry. Perhaps there might be greater regulation. It is important that responsibility be put on the industry. While I know that people can go into a different bookmaker's office even if there was a weekly limit of a certain amount, the industry is smart enough, if there is a trend in a specific area, to know that there is a problem which should be identified and a person helped.

I welcome the Bill which I am aware is an interim measure as the Government intends, I hope, to bring forward much more fundamental legislation to regulate gambling. That is what is needed and what has been long promised. The gambling control Bill was drafted by then Minister, Alan Shatter, in 2013. The ongoing delay is very disappointing. Almost six years later, Private Members' legislation has been tabled and there is no end in sight, despite repeated promises being made by a number of Ministers. I accept that the Minister of State has an interest in the issue, but I am afraid progress is very slow.

In this legislation the placing of caps of €10 and €750 on stakes is welcome. I am aware that the Bill allows the Minister of State to amend these limits in the future. I hope it will be downwards rather than upwards. It is an important flexibility granted by the Bill and I hope it is one the Minister will use wisely. It is also important that the Minister engage regularly with those dealing with the consequences of problem gambling to see if the limits are having the desired effect and they should be subject to frequent review.

The fact that the Bill seeks to amend legislation dating from 1956 shows how little legislation has been introduced in this area during the years and how badly it is needed. The world of gambling has moved on dramatically in the last five years, never mind the last 65. There have been many iterations of change and development in that time, but it is an area that is developing more rapidly as time passes. Gambling has always been a problem and has always been with us, but online gambling has meant that it has become more hidden, pernicious, easier and affects a much larger category of people. The legislation that was required in 1956 compared to what is required in 2019 is worlds apart and as legislators we have much more to do in that regard.

We had the scheme of a Bill in the gambling control Bill in 2013. There were years of engagement with relevant bodies in the sector, with the report of the working group, but I was not entirely certain from the comments of the Minister of State in the Seanad in February in responding to a Private Members' motion whether the Government had accepted entirely the need for an independent, self-financing regulator-----

I am glad to hear that. The Minister of State might develop the point.

When the Bill is eventually brought before the Oireachtas, we will have to remember that it will primarily be to prevent harmful gambling and regulate the many people who enjoy gambling safely. Many people gamble responsibly and there is no proposal to ban gambling. There are people involved in the gambling industry who have in the absence of legislation followed codes of conduct on age limits.

However, we cannot rely on people. Codes of conduct often fall significantly short when relying on people's goodwill and voluntary actions, and that rarely has the desired effect. There must be a lot more than that. I refer to firm, robust legislation and regulation.

There is a deficit of data and information. There has been some criticism of the statistics recently released by the HSE, which are to some extent at variance with the manner in which data were collected in other jurisdictions. That is important because accurate data are required to act as a basis for policy formation so that we have a clear picture of the situation. As I understand it, the criteria used to assess and identify the scale of problem gambling were different from those used in similar surveys in the North of Ireland and by the British Gambling Commission. We had a discussion on data collation and its uses by companies at a meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality a few weeks ago. I accept the HSE and its ability to collect data is not the responsibility of the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, but a whole-of-Government approach is required to tackle the issue. In addition to gambling legislation we must consider how we tackle problem gambling.

Many companies appear to be very good at figuring out who are profitable gamblers. They quickly identify somebody who has a chain of three or four winners in which they have been very accurate at beating the odds. I do not wish to make folk heroes of any of those people. They are just people who are gambling and it is not as if they are people to be admired. All the forums are very skilled at identifying people, but they are not as skilled at identifying people who are losing. I sense that the companies have a lot more data than we realise and they could be doing a lot more with the information they have to tackle problem gamblers. We have all read stories about people who have had big problems such as Tony O'Reilly who managed to avoid betting for a while at the time of his wedding and then he got sucked into it and tried to bet on the Derby to make up what he had lost, which he did, but I am sure there were countless times that he did not and ultimately he did not. There are many similar stories. If the companies can do more about it they should.

The recent meeting to which I referred was attended by Dr. Crystal Fulton, associate professor at the school of information and communication studies at University College Dublin. She conducted research in the field of problem gambling. In her opening statement she said:

Participants described harmful gambling as having a profound, life-changing impact on them, whether gamblers or their families and friends. Significantly, they believed the Government could, and should, act to protect them and those at future risk of a gambling problem.

While I again acknowledge the good intentions behind the Bill and the fact that it is a good Bill, it is not comprehensive enough and a much broader Bill such as the 2013 Bill is required.

A point I raised previously is that an all-Ireland approach to problem gambling is also important. I recently launched an all-island policy document on problem gambling with Ms Sinéad Ennis, MLA, our spokesperson on the issue in the North. I also acknowledge the work done by Ms Lynn Boylan on this subject at a European level. I am not sure whether we sent a copy of that policy document to the Minister but, if not, I will make sure it is sent to him. Two separate gambling prevalence surveys carried out in the North produced similar results, identifying a problem gambling rate of more than 2%, which is significant although it might not sound like much. I imagine the figure here is similar even if that is not apparent from the HSE data. We need a dedicated problem gambling survey which can withstand a straight comparison with the North, Scotland, Wales, England and other comparable jurisdictions. The HSE data are nearly five years old and the picture could well have changed since then. From what we do know, the South has the highest online gambling losses in the world per capita and the third highest gambling losses overall per capita. The scale of the problem we face is significant and perhaps growing.

On Committee Stage, I intend to introduce an amendment calling for a report on some of those issues to be done within three months. The Bill is welcome. I accept the Minister of State is committed to this area but we are all waiting for the big one and that needs to come. We need to see the detail of it and we need to have it brought before the Dáil and the committee. I hope that will happen soon.

I will be very brief as I had not intended speaking on the Bill but circumstances changed and it is an area in which I have much interest. I wish to make a few points. I welcome the Bill. The Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, is a resourceful Minister and I wish he had more time because we need to do a lot more. I welcome the caps and all the other measures the Bill contains but we need to do a lot more. The Minister of State is probably working within a restricted time limit and he is trying to get the Bill passed. We will support the Bill but we have a serious problem in the form of mobile phones. Mobile phone betting in this country is at a crisis. I have seen it. I know of so many cases. I am sorry to have to say it but we have a situation where some of the companies are predators.

The previous speaker made some excellent contributions and I echo them. I know people who work for some of those companies and the data profiling is absolute. When they profile, if they come across someone who has a problem they do not ask him or her to stop or whatever the slogan is. "When the fun stops, stop." They offer people free bets to make sure they can wind people in again. I am sorry, but that practice must be outlawed. We must have controls on this form of gambling but also the medium by which it is done. It is so easy. Late at night people with alcohol or other substances in their system make very bad decisions. They spend thousands. I have seen it done with my own eyes by people who could not afford to spend even a tenner not to mind €500 on a bet on something happening on the television in front of them inside a pub. This is a real epidemic and a serious issue.

What is of most concern to me is the age profile. People aged under 18 can get away with it by going around corners in terms of getting access to accounts. It is not good enough either even if the person is aged over 18. What 18 year old, or even someone who is a bit older, has access to a credit card and can go online and spend hundreds on bets? We have a real problem in this country. The socialisation of young people into gambling has become so easy. It is very different from when I or any other Member grew up when we went physically into a betting shop and we saw the fiver or tenner or whatever amount we were putting over the counter. We saw it was real money. Now it does not seem like real money. It is coming off a credit card or similar and in some cases they are not even real bets because it is virtual this, virtual that and virtual the other where the odds are set by the owner of the company and the games are set up in such a way that they will be profitable. Nobody knows the algorithms used for them. Nobody knows the capacity to win or not.

This is serious territory where the country must get in control and do so very quickly as to how one can bet online, the use of various media such as mobile phones and all forms of mobile devices, the scale of bets allowable, the way data are being mined to pull in people who have trouble gambling, and the way data are being mined and used against those who are successful the odd time when it is used the opposite way then. I know of cases where people have been restricted on bets in certain classifications of matches, for example, because they are quite good at it. If they were bad at it, they would be let bet away. It works one way in one case and the other way in another scenario. We need an independent gambling regulator. Data mining must be taken away from the companies or at least done in conjunction with the regulator. I do not believe the process by which data mining is done or managed can be left with the companies.

There must be restrictions on the amount one can spend. Time limits and ways in which people can be stopped who have gone over a set amount in a set period are needed. Companies that do not adhere to the rules must be penalised. It must be independently audited at all times. At present, these companies are having a cakewalk with vulnerable people. I am not referring to the ordinary person who does not have a problem and makes a bet every now and again, as I do, but the many people whose lives, families and careers have been devastated. It is happening before our eyes. When there is the ease of access that currently exists, that will continue. I ask the Minister to increase the stakes on this, if he will pardon the pun, because we must deal with it.

The idea that somebody who has lost thousands of euro in their account and has tried to give up gambling can be inundated with emails and messages offering him or her free bets of €50 is immoral. This must be outlawed. Companies cannot be allowed to do that. There is also the practice of offering different odds to different people at the same time, based on the requirement to pull somebody back into gambling.

I have some final questions. There has been no legislation in this area since 1956. I am not sure what is legal and illegal anymore with regard to casinos and slot machines. It is a strange question, but what is legal and what is illegal? Where can slot machines be located and how can they be utilised? The legislation is so old it is not fit for purpose, so how is it interpreted by the State? That is the first issue. Casinos with card tables and so forth are other institutions that seem to be popping up, disappearing and popping up again. What is their status? What is and is not allowed under the current legislation? I have serious doubts that some of the practices taking place not a million miles from here and in other parts of the country are legal. I would prefer the Department to examine that and make some form of statement or validation as regards their current status. The powers-that-be who must regulate and inspect this area would need that authority from the Department. To be fair to them, I am not sure if they know or are sure about it themselves. They need that guidance from the Department.

I am sharing time with Deputy Pringle.

I acknowledge the active engagement of the Minister of State on the issue of gambling and I am aware of the many individuals and groups he has met in that capacity. There is frustration at the slowness of the process to update the legislation and make it relevant to the reality of gambling and take it further. The Bill before us is in the context of the outdated legislation comprising the Betting Act 1931 and the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956, which I have discussed previously in the House. They have been virtually unenforceable and they are particularly outdated because they do not take account of the massive shift in gambling to online and mobile platforms. As the Minister of State said, the Bill attempts to address certain deficiencies. While that is welcome, unfortunately, it is an interim measure while we await the comprehensive reform of the revised gambling control Bill. Consequently, a great deal more is left to be done. The Minister of State said it would be 2020 at the earliest, which is disappointing.

In the meantime, the problems continue. We are aware of the nightmare of gambling addiction. It is rightly known as the silent addiction. It is also the addiction that may never stop. Unlike with drugs and alcohol where a person will get to a point where his or her body just cannot take any more, there is no end point for the gambler. That is particularly so now when online gambling is available 24-7 for 365 days of the year. There is gap in Ireland when it comes to research on gambling. We are relying on limited research and surveys and anecdotal evidence of what is happening. It was positive to hear today, therefore, from the new organisation Gambling Awareness Trust that it will be involved in funding research, which it has started with Maynooth University. I presume that will tie in with the next Bill.

We have had to change our perception of addiction over many years. The original stereotype of the alcoholic was the person, generally a man, lying in the gutter, literally and metaphorically. However, we know that alcoholism is not confined to men, nor is it confined to a particular social class. Likewise with drugs, the stereotype, as we know in the north inner city, was the heroin addict who was injecting. Now, there is a wide range of drug addictions. There are tablets, both prescribed and unprescribed, weed of varying strengths, cocaine and crack cocaine. The list is endless. We also know that people are addicted to polydrug use, including alcohol. However, we are failing to get the message across to the so-called recreational drug users, who are looking forward to their coke or whatever at the weekend, that it is the same dealers who are creating the violence, mayhem and intimidation with the other drugs. Gambling sometimes, but not always, can be linked to other drugs. People who are drinking or using drugs can also get caught up in gambling.

The common denominator with all addictions is that the person does not set out to be an addict, whether it is to drugs, gambling or alcohol. The person is convinced he or she will stay in control and will not get addicted, but he or she does. What will this Bill achieve for the person with a gambling problem or addiction? Sadly, while it is helpful and welcome, it will not do much. The Minister of State outlined the amendments in his contribution. There is much in the Bill for promoters and local fundraising, ensuring the permit and licensing process is clear for promoters. We are all aware of how necessary local fundraising efforts are. One positive is the age limit of 18 years, but implementing it is the issue. Just as people under 18 years old get adults to buy alcohol for them in off-licences and supermarkets, it is also likely that gamblers aged under 18 will find a way around it.

The bottom line with underage drinking and underage gambling is drugs awareness and education is key. The education and awareness must involve capacity building among young people so they are aware of what they are getting into. They become aware of the dangers and the consequences, then they are able to make an informed decision in their best interests. That must be addressed so that legislation, plans and so forth are not always reactive but can be preventative. We have initiated some good programmes in the schools. A pilot programme on capacity building awareness has been running in a school in the north inner city and it has received quite a good independent evaluation. It has been focusing on alcohol and drugs, but we know gambling is part of that. We hope it will take in gambling as well. We also know that there is a group of people in our new communities who are very much involved in gambling. They are particularly known for it.

The Bill has a clear matrix on the allocation of prizes, beneficiaries, promoter expenses and the maximum allowable stake and prize amounts. The District Court may attach certificate conditions limiting hours of gaming and restricting the types of gaming. However, if a person is addicted to gambling, he or she will find something to gamble on. The bigger issue, again, is the addiction. We know the extent of the problem, the devastation and the losses. There have been high profile cases in recent years and one must acknowledge the bravery and honesty of those addicted to gambling who speak out. It has been the hidden and silent addiction until now. Section 7 inserts a new section 19A, which provides for the Revenue Commissioners to establish and maintain a register of gaming licences accessible online. That is a mammoth task when one thinks of how one can control online gambling.

Under sections 15 and 17, gaming instruments are now extended to gaming machines. There is a major issue in pubs and other licensed premises. I am not sure where they come under this legislation, if anywhere. There are also gaming machines on the ferries between Ireland and England and Ireland and France. Who regulates them? Section 26 refers to revoking and refusing certificates of personal fitness when seeking licensing as a bookmaker. It is ironic that this is happening at a time small, family run bookmakers are closing or being taken over by the major companies. The local bookmaker has a much better awareness of the people who have a problem.

I am not saying such bookmakers would necessarily address it but they certainly have better awareness of it.

It is a pity that this Bill is an interim measure and is limited in its scope. However, as the Minister of State has said, it is at least doing something with the outdated legislation. He is quite right in saying that this is a health issue but it is also a justice issue because we have seen the way in which the gaming industry has been used fraudulently to launder money, which is a major issue. I agree with the Minister of State's assertion that it is a complex matter. This Bill is just a start and I look forward, if I am still here in 2020, to the next stage.

As other Members have spoken very well about the online gambling issue, I will not speak about it in the context of this Bill, although it is a big issue that is becoming an increasing problem that must be tackled. Unfortunately, I do not see any moves to deal with it. Gambling and not dealing with it has been an issue in this country for donkey's years. When I was growing up as a teenager in Killybegs, I was in arcades that never had gaming licences. One could gamble as much as one wanted. One could lose a week's wages in half an hour in arcades. I grew up in such arcades because there was nowhere else for young people in Killybegs to go. Unfortunately, I am not talking about today or yesterday but gambling has always been an issue in this country and has never been tackled. Maybe this Bill will go some way towards dealing with it but sometimes I wonder.

On 12 March this year, a proposal to adopt Part III of the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 for the whole of the Inishowen and Letterkenny municipal districts was rushed through. It is interesting that the rush to get that through in Donegal was due to the fact that this legislation was coming and that other changes are being proposed by the Dáil. The proposal was passed by five votes to four in Inishowen and by six votes to three in Letterkenny. Unfortunately, a lot of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael members voted in favour of the legalisation of gaming machines in those electoral areas in Donegal. Gaming machines have now been legalised across north Donegal. The move invoked the original 1956 Act, not used in many parts of the country, and comes at a time when concern about the impact that the largely unregulated industry of gaming is having on families and communities is growing. Under the current laws, the Government has no role or responsibility in relation to the licensing or regulation of gaming machines. Under Part III of the Gaming and Lotteries Act, it is left up to local authorities, district courts and the Revenue Commissioners to decide whether to grant a gaming licence. There was strong lobbying on the part of private businesses in Donegal. It is understood that approximately 85 submissions were received, the majority of them in favour of the proposal. At a meeting late last year, business owners operating arcades, which include two in Bridgend, one in Muff, two in Buncrana and a number in Letterkenny, urged councillors to adopt Part III of the Act. They said that if Part III was not adopted, they would not be able to obtain gaming licences and Revenue, which had already seized machines, would continue with enforcement. They further said that this would lead to the closure of arcades with the loss of almost 130 jobs. They also said that over 90% of their trade is cross-Border, which makes it okay, and that their businesses should be protected.

While close attention was paid to private businesses, there was very little communication with the public about this proposal. There were claims that not enough time had been given for the receipt of submissions from the public and questions were raised as to whether the process was properly advertised. A petition was signed by 150 local people but obviously was ignored by the councillors. The petition stated that at a time when other countries are progressively acting to restrict the harmful effects of slot machines, the adoption of the Act would be a regressive step, increasing the potential for gambling addiction in Donegal. It also stated that gambling addiction is the most hidden and corrosive addiction and the hardest to treat, which is certainly true. To put that into context, the HSE has treated 800 people for gambling addiction over the past three years and yet the Irish gambling market is estimated to be worth up to €8 billion annually. That is a lot of gambling by 800 people. The argument on behalf of the gambling sector that jobs are at stake and arcades would have to close down is not solid, as clearly business is thriving in an unregulated way. It is suspicious that councillors would rush to approve Part III for the whole of the Inishowen and Letterkenny municipal districts in time before this and other gambling reform Bills get through the Oireachtas. The councillors in question, the majority of them from Fianna Fáil, definitely absorbed the industry’s fears around the changing nature of gambling in Ireland, which is increasingly migrating to online platforms where it is completely unregulated. I understand this will be addressed under the proposed gambling control Bill but that has not seen the light of day since 2013 when it was first mooted.

Now we have a situation where, in light of the regulatory vacuum, local authorities are making use of their liberties while they still have them. Councillors are also aware of potential changes arising from this and other Bills that would eventually curb the powers of local authorities when it comes to gaming in the future. While this Bill is an opportunity, it has failed to address the arbitrary nature of local authorities’ role in enacting Part III of the principal Act, which is not supported by any policy framework to guide local councillors in how best to represent their constituents on the issue of gaming and gambling. The arbitrary nature of local powers has meant large-scale circumvention of the current law to date.

While the amendments proposed in this Bill do not do away with the powers of local authorities under Part III, the expanded power proposed in section 4 could lead to a diminished role for local authorities in regulating gaming in the future. This leads me to my next issue with this Bill, which is section 4. This section is hugely problematic as it includes for the first time the involvement and expansion of powers of Garda superintendents, who will now have the authority to grant licences for gambling and gaming. How can this be the case when according to the industry’s own sources, there are up to 40,000 gaming machines in operation across the country but Revenue only issued 11,846 gaming machine licences last year? There are lots of unlicensed gambling machines out there about which the Garda already knows. Clearly, members of the Garda are not enforcing existing legislation, which raises a number of questions. I would question whether they are actually the right people to be enforcing this legislation. They have enough to do as it is and we seem to be constantly pushing more onto them. Also in question is the legitimacy of members of the Garda as the issuers of licences to premises, which they have not been checking on in the first place. This provision will also politicise superintendents and make them targets for lobbying by private industry. We have seen that private industry is very good at such lobbying, particularly in the case of Donegal and some political parties. This provision has not been clearly thought through because not only will superintendents have free rein to grant licences in their locality, there is no one to monitor whether the licences are being issued in accordance with the law. It is for these reasons that I have grave difficulties with this Bill and I doubt that I will be in a position to support it.

I am happy to speak on the Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill 2019. I absolutely accept that we urgently need to address the expanding problem of gambling addiction, and specifically online gambling addiction, that is such a plague for so many families in our country. People can gamble day and night, at work, in their bedrooms and kitchens and anywhere they wish. In the past, people had to go to casinos to play on slot machines or to betting offices to place bets but now they can gamble in the privacy and secrecy of their own homes or at their workplace. The level of availability and the ability to gamble huge sums of money secretly, quietly and within seconds is a matter of enormous concern.

I wish to salute the work carried out by the Aiséirí centre in Cahir and by Sr. Eileen, its founder. It is related to the Aislinn centre in Ballyragget, County Kilkenny, which was also the brainchild of Sr. Eileen Fahey. Sr. Veronica Mangan led the charge there and I was involved in fundraising and attended steering committee meetings to set up the centre for adolescents almost 20 years ago. Any time I meet them, I inquire about how the centre is going. At the time it was set up, the aim was to provide for 15 to 18 year olds. Now the centre is dealing with problems in children who are only ten or 11 years old or even younger. It is a shocking indictment of our society. Aiséirí is a wonderful facility and many people have recovered there, thanks to Sr. Eileen and her team, including board members and volunteers.

The Aislinn Centre was set up to deal with that cohort of young people and they are getting younger and younger with each passing year. That is very sad. We need a serious examination of what has gone wrong and why there is such a proliferation of gambling. This legislation does not deal adequately with that. The Aislinn Centre and Aiséirí have done so much to restore people on their journey into recovery from addictions of all kinds, and there are many. My wife often says that politics is a form of addiction not yet classified by the World Health Organization. She could be right because it certainly is. She said it was bad enough to have one member of the family involved in politics but our daughter has gone into politics and has got elected to the county council. My wife said we were not taking the medication. While I am being jocose about that I do not mean to be jocose or flippant about the legislation and the problem we are discussing.

My good wife is a qualified psychiatric nurse. There are many types of addictions, all kinds of traumatic, desperate, sad and tragic situations. While there might be alcohol or drug addictions, the gambling addiction happens quietly, succinctly and behind closed doors, or not even behind them but perhaps in a family setting where a wife or partner, or a husband, did not realise or have any understanding of the extent of his or her partner's gambling addiction.

Statistics and information from Spunout.ie reveal there is believed to be 40,000 people in Ireland who have a gambling addiction. I would say those figures are modest, not accurate or up to date. In addition to those statistics, more than €5 billion a year is gambled. We talk about the onset of Brexit, the difficulties it will pose for us and the money that will be needed to deal with the climate change. The gambling of €5 billion a year works out at €10,000 per minute every day. That is according to those official figures. I believe the amount gambled is far more because a great deal of it takes place under the radar and behind closed doors in bedrooms, workplaces or elsewhere. That amount might be only the tip of the iceberg. Approximately €10,000 per minute is gambled every day and there are 60 minutes in the hour. It is mind-boggling. It has been also found that Ireland has the third highest per capita rating in the world for losses in gambling. That is a staggering figure. We were known as the island of saints and scholars and the island of a hundred thousand welcomes, céad míle fáilte, but now Ireland is to be recognised worldwide as having the third highest per capita rating in the world for losses in gambling, so someone is making money somewhere.

Last year Ireland's losses from gambling totalled up to be more than €2.1 billion. If we add to that the €5 billion a year that is gambled, the amount involved is staggering, shocking and one would gasp in disbelief at those figures. That is what is recognised and put down on paper. It is a guesstimate as to the losses involved but I believe the amount to be much more.

The most popular method of gambling is online with almost half of gambling losses coming from it, while the second most popular method of gambling is traditional betting. For all its faults, I remember when we would have been setting the spuds in springtime the Grand National would have been on while we would be having the tea and one of us might have got a chance to cycle a bike to a betting office to place a bet on a horse in that race, whether it be the Grand National here or in Aintree. People did simple things like that but now young and old people have a device in their hands, the mobile phone, and they can simply press a button and their bet is taken. People do not have to go to any great effort or consideration to do that. If one is feeling down or depressed and has lost a lot money, one has great hope that the next bet might come right. It is like the slot machines. I often played them as a buachaill óg in Bray or in Youghal, the Minister of State's town, in Ardmore or other places. We would have gone to those places only once a year and we would have given the machine a shake, and knocked in the coins but sin scéal eile. That was simplistic and it was addictive but now people have a deadly tool, their mobile phones. I am always lamenting the lack of broadband but we may have been lucky. Some families may be lucky and have been spared by the fact that broadband does not extend into their homes and that it is not able to be used to wipe out a livelihood, a mortgage and all that has gone into the building up of a family home.

Gambling is easily accessible, especially when Ireland has approximately 1,100 bookmaker shops, 19 private members clubs-casinos, 122 licensed gaming arcades and more than 10,000 gaming machines. I am sure those figures have come from the Library and Research Service or from other statistics. I believe those figures to be far greater. Those are the figures that are registered and that are meant to be legal. I am concerned about all the underhand operations. We see young lads and girls aged 14, 15 or 16 going out playing Gaelic football, hurling or peil na mban, bets are being placed on each other as to who gets the first score and the wining of games. That is frightening, shocking and devastating. It is time we woke up and smelled the coffee and see what is going on.

It is sad to see in towns such as my own town of Clonmel, Tipperary town, Carrick on Suir, Nenagh, Roscrea, Templemore, Cahir and all the others a proliferation of shops closing and then new premises being painted and decorated only to discover that they are betting offices. They are often located adjacent to a public bar. It is a serious matter.

As the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, said in his report in March of this year, devising and implementing a modern licensing and regulatory regime for the Irish gambling industry presents this State with a significant challenge. I fully concur with those words. It is not a significant but a massive challenge of a scale of which we have no understanding. When people have mobiles phones - children want to buy them with their first communion money, although this comes down to parental control - they can get such impulsive and lucrative offers and then they can get into all kinds of trouble. The Minister of State correctly noted that the industry is large, growing and evolving from a largely land-based manifestation to an online one, and therein lies the difficulties. We could deal with the land-based operations and superintendents in the Garda Síochána could check up on them but we do not know what is happening with the online operations. I will not mention any court case but we have seen the horrible stuff that is coming online and actions that young people are encouraged to take. It is shocking and devastating. Despite that we are currently applying a mid-20th century approach to gambling activities that have changed significantly in nature, are increasingly digital in format, and conducted on-line, as I said from the secrecy of the home, a bedroom, a shed or some quiet place in any street or town.

The Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill 2019 is, however, as we know, intended to provide some urgent clarifications and amendments to the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956. That legislation was enacted two years before I was born. I compliment the Minister of State on trying to do something with an Act that is so out of date. I am seasca bliain d'aois and the last Act dealing with this issue was enacted two years before I was born. This is a shame on all Governments, especially in the past 30 years, because this problem has been incrementally catching up on us, destroying lives and attacking us like a cancer.

The amendments proposed in the Bill primarily concern improving the regulation of gaming and lotteries, including the updating of stake and prize limits. The Bill is an interim reform measure. Many of the reforms it proposes may be superseded by the comprehensive reforms contemplated in the proposed gambling control Bill. If they are, I welcome that. It is an initial start. Tús maith leath na hoibre ach sé ró-dhéanach.

I am in complete agreement with the Minister when, on announcing the Bill, he stated that he was particularly anxious to address the issue of underage gambling. It is an epidemic. I alluded earlier to the phones and the availability of it. As I understand it, this Bill, therefore, proposes to standardise the minimum age at which a person can take part in gaming and lottery activities under the 1956 Act at 18 years of age. The Bill also proposes to amend the Totalisator Act 1929 to provide for a minimum age of 18 years for betting on the Tote. This brings gaming and lotteries and totalisator regimes into line with the age limits for betting under the Betting Act 1931. That is badly needed also. We need to get real here, not talk of situations that are archaic and well outdated.

I also acknowledge the issues surrounding enforcement. I am concerned about section 4, to which Deputy Pringle referred, that a Garda superintendent can grant a licence. There are considerable concerns over that. Not only will the superintendents become targets for lobbying but it brings into question how the ordinary rank and file gardaí, of whom we have not enough and who are overburdened as it is, will enforce the issue of licences that are being obtained through the courts if the Garda superintendent can grant a licence. I believe this to be a retrograde step. While it might cut down the paperwork, the Garda superintendents have more than enough to do currently to deal with all kinds of behaviour, all kinds of manpower enforcement issues and all kinds of attacks on the public without being in a situation where they can grant licences. This is fraught with dangers because it is so lucrative and has such a bad underbelly and aura about it and they all can be lobbied. I respect the vast majority of superintendents - they have all served us well - but I have seen a situation in my own area where a garda, at superintendent or inspector level, granted a licence for a shooting range that has no planning permission and has no proper scrutiny. These things are fraught with dangers and we need to be able to have recourse to proper planning and development. Such licences should never be granted-----

It has come to my attention that the Deputy said that a superintendent granted a licence where there was no planning permission. That is a serious allegation because I am quite sure it is possible to identify that person. The Deputy is a longstanding Member of this House and he should know that one does not name or identify.

I am merely making the correlation around where licences-----

The Deputy stated what he believed to be a fact.

It was a fact-----

-----and it happened. I am just saying-----

And there was no planning permission?

There is still no planning permission. The licence was revoked two days ago, thankfully. I am just making the point that pressures can be inadvertently - I am not saying it was done deliberately - at planning-----

That is different.

It is not different. A licence was granted without any planning. One must go through all procedures. I am just trying to illustrate my point that this should not be put in the role of Garda superintendents. It should be a proper due process of planning permission that should be advertised and go through the normal channels where the public can make submissions etc.

As the Bills Digest makes clear, the primary responsibility for the enforcement of the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 falls to An Garda Síochána, which I alluded to, but serious questions about the enforcement of the legislation have been raised already. Tá An Garda Síochána an-ghnóthach ar fad. I salute them. I have supported them all my life but they are very busy people. They cannot be in every corner. They need the support of the public as well. No police force in the world can function without the public. As I said, serious questions have been raised.

It has been noted that the most fundamental regulatory requirements are routinely ignored. Speaking in Seanad Éireann of the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956, Senator David Norris stated that it:

is being flagrantly broken in every single part of the country. Operators are being allowed to openly break the law. Tens of millions of euros in licence fees, moneys which could fund much-needed addiction services, are not being collected.

The Senator is in the Upper House much longer than I am here. Surely this is something we need to address urgently, once and for all.

Generally speaking, it is to be hoped that neither this Bill nor future Bills will be overly punitive in terms of the small betting shop owner, who we recognise, we know and for whom we have a face. We must accept that addiction issues aside, most adults act responsibly when it comes to gambling and, thankfully, do not get so deep into trouble that they need addiction treatment services. We have to allow them to be accommodated also.

There are a plethora of organisations up and down the country, for instance, Seesaw in my own town of Clonmel. These are grappling with the problem every day on a voluntary basis. I refer to Taxi Watch and Suicide Watch. There are so many agencies, and so many private individuals as well, who are offering counselling services out there for free and trying to help people to deal with all these catastrophic events that have grown on people silently, secretly and incrementally and taken over their lives. We are plagued with suicides, in the town of Carrick-on-Suir recently and the whole south Tipperary area, and we do not have the resources to deal with it. Many of them are for drug debts and gambling debts that people have inadvertently sleep-walked into. We need decisive, cohesive and dedicated responses from compassionate counselling services. Also, when people do not want to avail of that, we must have the full rigors of the law come down on the barons who are peddling in misery, making significant profits but causing devastation to people's lives and families, to young people and grandchildren and families to come.

I hope this Bill will go some way to deal with this. I look forward to engaging constructively with the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, and the Department on it.

I welcome the Bill which is about regulation but I would just like to say a few words about gambling. If the figure of 40,000 is correct for those who have a gambling addiction or a gambling problem, or to put it another way are gambling beyond their wealth, we need to think of the absolute scale of that. That number would fill most provincial football or hurling grounds to the roof. It is a huge amount of people. It could relate to three or four times that number in family members affected directly by it. Therefore, it is not an issue we can treat lightly.

The figure that the average we lose per adult is €470 a year is quite startling. I do not know how that figure was put together but I presume that is gambling other than what most of us do in terms of buying lottery tickets etc. in the local club, for a good cause or charity which is not really gambling. One would give that money and if one were lucky enough to win one would be happy, and if one were not lucky enough to win that is not why one gave it. One did not give it to win. One did not give it to gamble. One gave it for a cause. Therefore, we must recognise that gambling is a major issue.

I also recognise the Government will not solve the problem and nobody will ever solve the problem. It is not solvable because people will find a way of gambling.

There is a lot of talk here about online gambling, which is particularly insidious and easy. If one wants to gamble, however, one will find a way. People have done it with bingo and in buying lottery tickets. There is no way, therefore, of preventing people from losing money on gambling. We can reduce the incidence but we cannot eliminate it. We have to be realistic about that. It is not something that I take easily because I have seen the effects of gambling and of hidden gambling. I have known people, male and female, who would be the last people in the world, male and female, one would expect to gamble who I found out afterwards were gambling. There is a saying in Irish -"Níl a fhios ag aon duine cá luíonn an bhróg ar an duine eile" - that one never knows where the shoe is laid. One finds that people that one thought were in comfortable circumstances were up to their necks in debt because of gambling.

This leads me to how one helps those who will inevitably succumb, no matter what laws or precautions we bring in. We think that we can solve everything by law but we cannot. What sort of attitudes are we going to take to people who have an addiction to gambling? In more recent times we have been more realistic about addiction to drink in that it is a disease that needs treatment. We have plenty of treatment centres around the country. We recognise that it is not so simple as to just blame people; we must try to help people to solve their problem. At a certain level of addiction it is hard to put culpability in there because the person loses control of their own actions. That is what an addiction is all about. We understand the same thing about drug addicts. Many people say we should get the drug pushers but should not start locking up the drug addict; instead try to get treatment and support for them and wean them off the drugs. I hope that society would take the same attitude to those who have an addiction to gambling, that it would be seen as a medical condition, like all addictions, and that we deal with it medically not criminally.

We have all seen sad cases in the newspapers over the years where people have been brought to court for theft, particularly theft against their employers. We have even seen people in the public service caught up in this particular situation. Inevitably, when one starts digging behind the stories, in a high percentage of cases one finds that the person has a gambling addiction. It is important, therefore, that we address and debate this issue and try to see how we change societal attitudes so that we can deal with it in the way that all addictions should be dealt with, which is by trying to assist the person.

I pay tribute here tonight to all of the people in Gamblers Anonymous and all of the different groups and charities who quietly help people with a gambling addiction. It is insidious and in certain ways it is worse than a drinking addiction. There comes a point when, if one keeps drinking, one will physically collapse. With gambling, one can keep going and going until one has taken everything, not only in one's own life, but in the lives of those around the person in money terms. I have seen that happen.

I believe, however, that there are small steps we can take to reduce the normalisation of gambling. The only gambling I ever do is to buy lottery tickets in local charities. People might think I am very prissy in that I have no interest in gambling on horses. I do not buy the national lottery tickets or Euromillions as they hold no attraction for me. I do not know what is in me but that type of gambling frightens me. There are people who are attracted to this gambling and often these are people with little means who dream some day that they will hit the Euromillions jackpot or whatever. They spend beyond their means on a fairly consistent basis. These people would not have an addiction but would be spending beyond their means.

We also have to recognise that there has been a huge increase in the talk about gambling, odds and bets. I do not like listening to radio or television commentators talking about the odds on various events, such as who is going to get the first goal, score within ten minutes of the beginning of a match, or whatever. It is not good practice and is unnecessary. For 99% of the public it just washes over them. For those who have this addiction, however, it is an unnecessary normalisation of gambling on every kind of conceivable thing that one could dream of. If one asked me ten years ago about football betting, I would have thought one might bet on the result of a match. There must be between 50 to 100 ways of betting on any one match and even during the matches the betting is going on and that is not going to be stopped. The promotion of that, however, on radio and television is not positive and is something we should talk to organisations, such as the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, BAI, about because it is not conducive to addressing this issue.

There is a lot of talk tonight about online betting and I accept that that is the big one. It is very hard to control that. With drink advertisements, one has the person selling the drink as hard as they can, and then at the end of the advertisement they talk about being aware of problem drinking or whatever it is they say. Similarly, one has these advertisements promoting lotteries - I am not talking about the lottery in one's local club but the big national and European lotteries - and then at the bottom of these advertisements there is the warning to beware of abusing this. Why do all of this advertising if one is not trying to suck people in? It is a contradiction in terms and I do not buy the industry's argument that if we put a little statement at the end, that is going to frighten off the person with the addiction. That is slightly disingenuous.

We need a debate about how we treat the people who will inevitably get into trouble and who we will never prevent from getting into trouble. One could bring all the legislation one wants into this House and it would be about as effective as prohibition was in America, a point which I recognise. I am not a killjoy for people who bet responsibly. For the vast majority of people who have a bit of a flutter, it does not impact on their resources or their family's resources. That is not a problem. We have to decide how we are going to support and help those who do get into trouble, who get the addiction, and whether to criminalise them - which I think is wrong - or try to support them and wean them off the addiction. That is a debate we need to have in the near future. Is the State willing, for example, to levy the industry through the tax system to provide supports for people who get into gambling difficulties and the families who suffer hugely from the effects of gambling?

On the other hand, I say to the Minister that I like section 9, if I understand it correctly. If we look at the big scene in this, and then look at what many people have lotteries and draws for, my big concern and that of others relates more to the charity regulation side of this business, to ensure that moneys collected by local lotteries go to the sources intended. I have always had the view that for the big corporates or somebody on a national body running a raffle, it is right that there is a huge amount of control. In the case of a local parish draw, however, the fewer controls there the better. People know who they are their giving money to. Normally, it is well announced how much money has been made, the cause is fairly transparent to one's parish and people know exactly what is going on. I welcome section 9 where it is stated that one can have a lottery.

We might allow up to a tenner for the price of the ticket. This is not gambling. The Minister of State knows it is not. I get people coming in to me all the time trying to sell me tickets. A certain group sticks me for nearly a fiver a week. It is harmless and I know it is for a very good cause. I admire the tenacity with which they have gone about collecting a massive sum of money for a very genuine and good cause within one of the parishes in my area. I do not expect to win and do not care if I win. If they come back some day and tell me I have won €50 or €100 or €200, I will be happy. I do not do it for that. Those types of lotteries are very different. They are not the ones that cause addictions. Someone who has an addiction does not go looking for a lottery here and there for a local cause. That is not what happens. I welcome the very pragmatic approach the Minister of State is taking in separating the bigger, higher-level problem from the ordinary thing we all do to collect money for the million good causes in our parishes, towns and villages, where it is done for the cause and the prize is not the inducement. The real prize is the cause for which the money is being collected.

I welcome the Bill. If I am reading his body language right, the Minister of State recognises that the Bill is limited in what it is going to achieve and does not claim to be the solution to all problems. On the wider issue of problem gambling, we need a debate and we need to set the tone of how society is going to deal with this. Advertising and promotion of big-time gambling is something I have a bit of an issue with and I think we have to look at it.

I thank Deputies who have contributed to the debate. The Bill that I have proposed will have the effect of modernising and clarifying the provisions of the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956. It is time to update this outdated law. The debate was pretty good and quite instructive. I look forward to Committee Stage. I thank Deputy Ó Cuív in particular for his fine analysis. Experience tells here, when we say we are not going to cure addiction. It is going to be always with us but we can help in a way. I have been saying again and again that primarily, addiction is a health issue. We can do a certain amount from the justice end and on the regulator's side but that is where it lies.

I appreciate that there were lots of questions and I look forward to going through them in more detail on Committee Stage. I have expressed my commitment to bringing forward comprehensive reform proposals at the earliest possible opportunity. This is an internal measure we are dealing with tonight. As has come across from all colleagues who have spoken and from debate in the Seanad, this is a very complex area. It is extremely complex. The more we drill down into it, the more complex it gets. It has become more complex over the decades, especially with the online manifestation. The Government has agreed the plan for a comprehensive reform of our gambling licensing and regulation system. We have published the report of the interdepartmental working group on the future licensing and regulation of gambling. Based on that report and the 2013 general scheme of the gambling control Bill, my Department is working to bring forward revised modern legislation to address in a comprehensive manner the deficiencies in our current gambling licensing and regulatory infrastructure. The 2013 general scheme was just that. The legislation was never drafted. One of the things I have discovered even during the course of this Bill is that it is extremely complex to draft. It takes a long time. I was involved in the prelegislative scrutiny phase through a committee at that time. Since then, things have changed again. The legislation was not drafted. There was no Bill produced at that time, unfortunately. We are where we are.

I also want to set up a totally independent regulator. People have been talking about this. What was proposed in 2013 was an office in the Department of Justice and Equality. I want to go beyond that to have a totally independent regulator, self-financed, financed in the main by levies from the industry. It will be expensive to set up. It will be very complex and very big. This area is so large; as Deputies have said, the value of the industry is between €5 billion and €8 billion per annum. It is extremely complex. The gambling regulator will have to be flexible and able to move with the times. It is something we want to do. Deputy O'Callaghan has acknowledged that and I agree with him.

Deputy Murphy O'Mahony spoke about gambling addiction. A lot of people are speaking about gambling addiction. This Bill is not really about that but every time we speak about gambling, gambling addiction comes up. Deputy Scanlon spoke about taxation of online gambling and argued that we should help and support people who have gambling issues. I agree with him. Deputy Ó Laoghaire spoke about stakes and prize limits, which we have brought before the House. They will be brought before the House in time. We are updating them and a statutory instrument will be required in order to do that. The Minister will have the power to do that.

There is no proposition to ban gambling. If we restrict something too much, it goes underground. The Deputy mentioned prohibition, which is an example of this. We have to be careful that we do not drive things underground. There was a reference to an all-island approach to problem gambling. We are linking up with gambling regulators all over the world. Even where they have very powerful regulators, they still have problem gambling and addictions. We are financing another survey at the moment on problem gambling in conjunction with the Department of Health.

Deputy Kelly spoke about mobile phones, predator companies and data profiling. He made the point quite well about how complicated this is. In order to regulate it, we will have to have a very complex, comprehensive regulator in order to make this work. He spoke about data mining, cooling off periods and so on. We have spent a whole year looking at this with an interdepartmental group, and all these points came up. Sports betting has been mentioned as has money laundering. It goes on and on. It is quite complex. The Deputy asked about what is legal and illegal when it comes to slot machines and so on. They are still regulated by the law as it stands. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan spoke about awareness raising and I agree with her on that issue. Prevention is important. She spoke about a school in the north inner city that is doing some good work which I commend. She talked about money laundering. We have a money laundering regulation which looks after that.

A lot has been said which will be very useful in feeding into the wider debate we are having on this for when we want to bring forward the whole issue of regulation itself. I agree with Deputy O'Callaghan that there is much more to be done. We have made a start on that road. Deputy Pringle spoke about the Garda superintendent. This Bill does provide a role for the Garda superintendent, not the sergeant as the 1956 Act states, to issue a gaming permit for prizes up to €3,000 or a lottery permit for up to €5,000. They are the same limits as we have at the moment. Improved terms and conditions are also proposed for these permits. They do not concern online gambling or gaming machines. There is local, small-scale funding activity through lotteries, raffles and so on. I recognise and thank Deputy Ó Cuív, who is the only one who spotted the fact that we are trying to help the small-scale raffles and not put too much pressure on them.

I look forward to the Committee Stage debate and thank everyone for their constructive comments and the responsible debate we have had tonight.

Question put and agreed to.