Before lunch, I had referred to the fact that I was not opposed to the concept of a national lottery. My concern was with section 5 and the amended section 5 of the Bill. I referred to the fact that, in my opinion, section 5 (b) was equal and similar to section 5 in the original Bill, that is, that it contains the following clause:
Such, if any, other purposes and in such amounts as the Government may determine from time to time.
That kind of clause has caused concern and fear among Senators on the other side of the House. Senator Deenihan in particular said he would be putting forward an amendment. I hope he does and certainly we would support him. I made the point that the amended section 5 (1) (a) was an improvement. It includes an item now on the matter of the health of the community. I was making the point before lunch, that I assumed — and I am sure the Minister will clarify this — that what is meant there is not payment of salaries to nurses or the payment of general hospital or community care expenses but that it would go in some way to the Health Education Bureau to create an awareness of the importance of physical fitness in our lives. We should have healthy living habits and generally help to prevent illness in the community. If that is what is envisaged it would be something I would welcome.
Many of the contributions have dealt with sport in our community, its importance and the role of sport in Irish life. That is understandable in a Bill like this though that is not what the Bill is about totally. I am glad the Minister with responsibility for sport is here on this Bill because, as I said, sport is very much part and parcel of the Bill. I can recall another occasion when he was in this Chamber with us. I was hoping that he would be here for this type of legislation. He was sitting in on an amendment Bill on that occasion.
I have no doubt that the idea of a national lottery was intended primarily for sporting, recreational and leisure facilities, but this was never properly defined. Was it meant to cope with the national situation or could it be for local communities, a football pitch, a hall or basketball or badminton? Certainly sport was clearly to be the main benefactor of such a lottery. It was suggested by Deputy Donal Creed when he was Minister that the national sports centre would be financed from this national lottery, not alone the actual erection of the centre, or whatever goes with it, but the running costs and the losses — unfortunately we know that there are losses in these ventures. This was very much to the fore and in the mind of Deputy Creed and the Government at that time. There is no doubt about it but that an investment in sport, leisure and recreation is a good investment. We find now that people have more and more leisure time. Hopefully, more people will become involved in some form of sport, such as simple jogging, squash or swimming. What better way is there for the people of our nation to develop a healthy interest in such sports? It is not clearly defined in the Bill that many of the minor sports that are operating in this country — less fashionable sports which have not large spectator attendances and have no turnstiles to go through in the same way as football, hurling, soccer, rugby and Gaelic — would benefit from such a lottery. I am talking about canoeing, rowing, basketball and athletics to some degree. Unless they have a major international meeting they will not have large crowds. There are many other sports that would clearly like to benefit from such a lottery. We have a great sporting tradition.
We have a very high standard of sporting achievement in this country. We have won much success on the international field from a handful of athletes. We have won and performed very well in the international arena. For example, going back to 1956 we had Ronnie Delaney, recently Eamon Coughlan — known as the chairman of the board for obvious reasons — Marcus O'Sullivan, Frank O'Meara, Ray Flynn and athletes of world reputation who can compete with the best. The common denominator of all of these people is that they had to go to America for their coaching to achieve the high level of excellence they now enjoy. If our athletes can get proper coaching and proper facilities they can be equal to the very best in the world. In cycling Stephen Roche and Seán Kelly can match the best in the world because they have had proper facilities and coaching. We would have great athletes and sports persons given the right opportunities. Our footballers, such as Frank Stapleton and David O'Leary, had to go to England for proper coaching. Our best youngsters are picked up by English scouts. Most go on to become top class footballers. If we could provide proper facilities our footballers could get the proper training and coaching at home.
Senator Deenihan referred to the importance of the national sports centre for the future of sports. He was advocating very strongly the case for Limerick. Many other centres throughout the country are anxious to have this vital and important facility. With regard to such claims, Athlone has a stronger claim than its competitors. From day one, we, as a local authority, were concerned when the advertisement for the national sports centre appeared in the newspapers on 15 November last year. Submissions were to be with Cospóir before 28 November. As chairman of the council I called a meeting. It was attended by all sporting representatives. We made a first-class submission. The point I am making is that we were the only local authority to have our submission in before the required date. Athlone is the very centre of Ireland. We have 70 acres of land in public ownership and an excellent road network. It is easy to get to Athlone from any centre.
Senator Deenihan referred to a water sports centre for Limerick. In Athlone we have rowing, canoeing and yachting. We have the second oldest yachting club in the world. We have a rowing course which is almost 2,000 metres. This year most of the adult championships of the Irish Rowing Union were held in Athlone. There is a lake and facilities for water sports. I regard Athlone as the natural place for the national sports centre.
Many people fear the impact which the national lottery will have on the existing lotteries operated by various volunatry and charitable organisations will affect them. The Government, when announcing the national lottery, indicated that consideration would be given to this problem and that they would introduce changes in the existing legislation governing prizes in the hope of ensuring the continuation of existing lotteries. Nonetheless many of these groups are concerned.
I would hope that the lotteries run by Rehab and the Irish Wheelchair Association will not be affected by the national lottery. I would also hope that the efforts of groups such as the Lions Clubs, the Round Tables and the Soroptomists, who are doing great work for charitable organisations and are contributing enormously to the overall health services, will not be interfered with. These groups are very hard pressed at present for funds. They will need every help. I would hope that all voluntary groups who help to collect funds, whether they be Gael-Linn, the Mater Hospital Pools or the Rehabilitation Institute will continue to operate without any loss of revenue.
The national lottery may also have an effect on local charities, where a group come together in a village or town to collect for an important local cause. The Irish people have a great awareness of problems. They are generous to charitable organisations. I hope such groups will not be affected by the national lottery.
The positive aspect of the Bill is that An Post are to have a major input into the lottery. A subsidiary company of An Post will be set up to run the lottery. This is the proper approach to it. An Post are not referred to in the Bill but the Minister referred to it in his Second Stage speech. An Post are well suited to run this lottery because they have 2,000 or more suboffices. If it is to succeed, then the organising company, An Post, will have to embark on a major promotion programme. Can they sell tickets in America and Canada and such places or will sales be confined to Ireland? The Minister might comment on this.
The Bill provides that tickets may not be sold to persons under 18 years of age. This might be very difficult. The Minister in his Second Stage speech made the point that if a person under 18 receives a present of a ticket then that would be satisfactory. Let us assume that a 16 year old, not knowing the law regarding the National Lottery Bill, buys a ticket and wins a prize. Will he be asked for his birth certificate? Will he be denied his prize? That would be a very harsh attitude. I know the Bill provides for that, but it should be looked at again. It is not like drinking or gambling. It is somewhat different. The age limit might be lowered but, if it is not, what happens if, through lack of knowledge, a 16 year old buys a ticket and wins first prize? Can they take the prize home with them?
I welcome the fact that these will be an annual report. It is important that the lottery will be controlled properly from this point of view. I hope that the reports will not be delayed for three, four or five years as often happens with local government accounting and so on. I hope that we will have it as quickly as possible after the 12 month period.
The fact that there is an independent Ombudsman who will examine and oversee the operations of the Bill is welcome. There may be a lot of complaints, particularly in the early years.
Section (2) states:
The total value of the prizes distributed in the National lottery in any financial year of the Company shall... be equal to not less than 40 per cent of the total moneys received by the Company in that year in respect of the sale of National Lottery tickets in that year.
It is amazing how influenced people are by the size of the first prize. The more money one has in the fund to distribute the greater the number of people who will participate. The 40 per cent level should be increased if the lottery proceeds as we all hope it will.
Section 34 (2) states that:
If in any respect any difficulty arises in bringing this Act into operation, the Minister may by regulations do anything which appears to him to be necessary or expedient for bringing this Act into operation...
Perhaps the Minister might comment on what exactly this means. One could suggest that the Minister is overruling an Act of Parliament and I am sure that is not the intention.
I am not opposed to the concept of a national lottery. I like to have a flutter on the horses and dogs or participate in a raffle and maybe I am biased a little towards it from that point of view. My biggest criticism of the Bill is in relation to how the funds will be fully allocated. Other Members have mentioned this. Section 5 (1) (b) is the provision I would be most critical of. My worry is that the money collected would be spread through each Department for a multiplicity of causes. Hopefully this will not happen. That is something we can discuss on Committee Stage.