Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill 2019 [Seanad]: Order for Report Stage

On a point of order, if that is allowed, on the record of the Dáil today, the Taoiseach made a statement concerning this proposed legislation. What he said showed one of two things. He was either misleading the Dáil, and I would not like to think that he purposely did that, or he did not understand what is being proposed by this Bill. I say that because what the Taoiseach stated earlier was that what the Minister of State is proposing will not affect bingo and will not close down bingo halls. That is factually incorrect. If the Minister of State does what he is proposing to do, that will have a detrimental effect on the running of bingo operations and games because it is reducing by at least half the funding that can be made available for prizes and jackpots, lines across, full boxes and full houses. The Taoiseach, therefore, either misled the Dáil or he did not understand the implications of what is being proposed.

I hope the Minister of State understands the implications of the legislation he is proposing. The people who run bingo, whether it is a small, medium or large operation, are of the opinion that what the Minister of State is doing is detrimental to the game of bingo. If were to live forever, I would not understand why the Minister of State would want to attack a sector of society composed of people minding their own business and who just want to play the game of bingo. My God, those people were outside of these Houses yesterday and they were the most respectable people in the world. I want the Minister of State to clarify this before we go one bit further, because the Taoiseach was wrong in what he said today.

I call Deputy Scanlon for a brief contribution and then I will give the Minister of State an opportunity to respond before we move on, if he wishes.

I will be very brief. Following on from my colleague, I am speaking only of my local bingo games that have been in operation for the past 25 years to raise funds for the local youth clubs, football pitches etc. These bingo games pay out some €1,300 a week. They are not, therefore, tied into this 5% profit issue, but there is awful confusion about that and we need to get this issue clarified. I am glad the Minister of State is nodding his head in agreement with me because the real problem is the information circulating. Representatives from those bingo games were in contact with me today and they had that opinion. I am glad the Minister of State is again nodding his head on this issue because this is where the crux of this issue lies. As I mentioned, our local bingo games pay out some €1,300 a week. Sometimes we pay out 85% and other times 110%, when we have not got enough in to pay the prizes, because there is a set prize fund.

I have one other question on this issue for the Minister of State. What is the situation concerning local lottos? I am referring to clubs that run local lottos voluntarily to raise funding for local football pitches and such like where the prizes could run into €5,000 or €6,000 over seven, eight or nine months. Those lotto games take place over months. Does that €5,000 apply per week to that lotto? The Minister of State is nodding his head to indicate that it does, so then there is no problem.

It does at the moment. That is the law.

For what it is worth, Deputies, these are not points of order. These are statements and we cannot have this happening. If Deputy Michael Collins wants to make a point of order, I will let him do that. If he does not, then I am going to move on to Deputy Sherlock.

It is clarification that we need.

This is not the stage where we do that. I call Deputy Collins for a brief contribution, as he indicated first. I ask him to be brief or I will cut him off.

On a point of order, and I will be as brief as possible, there is serious concern regarding this issue. My previous history with the Minister of State has demonstrated that he is a fair and honest person who will clarify something if it needs to be clarified. There is a serious concern among people who play bingo. Most of the voluntary groups I am familiar with in west Cork organise and play bingo to try to raise funds for the local hall or local charitable event. Those funds help to keep festivals going in places such as Goleen, Kilbrittain, Bandon, Clonakilty or wherever bingo games are held weekly. The worry now is that people had an expectation that if they had paid about €10 towards playing bingo, then they might get €7.50 or €8.50 back in prize money. That is all part of the fun and enjoyment people have with those games. These are difficult times and people look forward to their weekly outing to play bingo. The worry that they will only end up getting €5 back now and that will not make these events viable.

I thank Deputy Collins and call Deputy Sherlock.

For the information of the House, may I suggest that we recommit section 12 of this Bill to Committee Stage and we have a discussion on it?

I call Deputy Sherlock, for a brief comment.

I was just going to say that the idea of a recommittal, if the Minister of State is amenable, would not be a bad idea. We will, however, be directed by him on this issue. The Acting Chairman has been very helpful in allowing us to come back in and make contributions. Technically, we should not.

The Deputies should only be contributing on a point of order, and these are not points of order.

These issues are not the subject of amendments either, and that is why we are seeking this clarification.

I am allowing flexibility, providing the Deputies co-operate with me.

I am grateful to the Acting Chairman. Regarding section 9, the Minister of State has already provided clarity to us, outside of this House, regarding those clubs we all represent, including GAA clubs, community organisations etc. that run bingo games on a Friday night. I refer to a local volunteer calling the balls in the game where perhaps €1,000 is brought in and €800 is paid out in prizes, with a small surplus going back into the community organisation or the GAA club. The Minister of State would be doing us a great service if he were to give us some comfort by confirming that such activities will not fall foul of this legislation. I also refer to the rollover of GAA lotteries run on a community basis, as Deputy Scanlon mentioned. There is much worry abroad regarding whether local GAA lotteries, in particular, will be allowed to roll over under this legislation. I thank the Acting Chairman.

Did Deputy Martin Kenny indicate that he wanted to speak?

Most of this will come up as we go through the amendments. It would be useful, however, to look at recommittal to Committee Stage for section 12, in particular, if it might be possible to do that. We could probably make some small tweaks that would improve everyone's lot.

I ask the Minister of State to recommit section 12 to Committee Stage so that we can deal with the substantive issue. A resolution can be found to this problem. I spoke to the Minister of State last night and gave him the example of the case across the Border in Northern Ireland. A tiered system is in place there where commercial bingo operations come under a different regulatory regime than community events. In our discussions yesterday, the Minister of State confirmed that there would not be a prohibition on communities topping up prizes over and above the 50% payment and bringing that up to 110%, as referred to in the previous example.

That requires people to carry substantial additional cash floats in parish halls around the country. We should not be encouraging people in communities that have been left vulnerable to robbery because of Garda station closures, etc., to carry significant amounts of money. The easiest way to deal with this is to recommit the Bill in respect of section 12 to enable a simple amendment to be made which would clarify our intention to provide for a tiered process that covers the commercial operators, which the Minister of State is trying to address in this legislation, and the community bingo events across the country, which we want to allow to continue to function as they have functioned up to now.

I apologise for being late. I did not expect this debate to start so soon. I support Deputy Sherlock's proposal. I agree with Deputy Naughten that section 12 could be an option for recommittal. People have become aware of this now. We often pass legislation that has unintended consequences. I know the Taoiseach gave his answers today. Either he was mistaken, he did not understand it, or he misled the Dáil. I hope he was mistaken or did not understand it. The Bill could be recommitted in respect of the aspect I have mentioned. We regularly pass legislation to control certain things. The unintended consequence in this instance could be the closure of these events. It will not be viable for local clubs, societies and voluntary groups to continue their bingo events, some of which have been running for decades. I remind the House that thousands of people throughout the country get social interaction and social solace from bingo.

We have to deal with a number of amendments before we get to section 12. I will be quite happy to recommit the Bill in respect of section 12. There will be no problem whatsoever with having a Committee Stage debate. I will be delighted to do so. A great deal of clarification is needed on this subject. There is a lot of confusion out there. Some information has not been clarified. I would like to get an opportunity to clarify the information for colleagues when the time comes. It might be in order to recommit when we get to section 12. Would that be okay?

Perfect. Is it agreed that Report Stage be taken now?

It is not agreed.

This is ridiculous. It is a very serious matter.

Question put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 69; Níl, 27; Staon, 0.

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Brassil, John.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Browne, James.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Byrne, Malcolm.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Curran, John.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawless, James.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Loughlin, Fiona.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Níl

  • Barry, Mick.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Harty, Michael.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Ward, Mark.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Seán Kyne and Tony McLoughlin; Níl, Deputies Mattie McGrath and Michael Healy-Rae.
Question declared carried.