MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Dé Máirt, 5adh Feabhra, 1929.
(Tuesday, 5th February, 1929).
The Joint Committee met at 11.30 a.m.
Mr. P. J. Quinn, President, Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, and Member of Central Savings Committee, called and examined.
268. The following memorandum of the evidence to be tendered on behalf of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation was submitted:—
Prior to the establishment of legalised betting saloons, the practice of betting was practically unknown to youth. When the subject was mentioned in their presence, there was strict silence regarding the persons concerned, and the actual method of betting—children generally took no interest in the subject through want of knowledge, and children whose parents betted took little interest through meagre knowledge and a dread lest discovery might bring trouble to the family. Children had no contact with the bookmaker or his agent, except in the rare case when he was sent with a bet to some person, or in the still rarer case where the father had collected bets in the workshop and had sent his child during the school lunch hours to hand over the cash and the lists. In these cases, the child’s idea of the transaction seemed quite vague and the message seemed to have had no different impression on his mind than that of any other message. No child, to my knowledge, ever made bets in those days, the principle reason being that they were kept in ignorance of how and with whom to bet through the dread of discovery.
When the legal betting saloons were opened, the curiosity of the youth was immediately aroused and their attention became riveted upon betting transactions. Discussion amongst adults upon racing events, and especially upon how and with whom to bet, became quite open and free from all restraint. Saloons became familiar public resorts in every district, and large groups of men and women congregated in and around them. Their sole topic of conversation was the finance of betting. School-going boys and girls were unconsciously drawn into these groups and smitten with the betting craze. Children have a remarkable tendency to imitate their elders, and since full latitude was given to talk and act in betting circles, they felt bound to display premature maturity by making bets themselves. They not only listen to the betting conversation of adults, but they read the betting columns and consult the lists of horses and prices displayed both outside and inside the saloons. When they could raise the full amount of a bet they speculate individually, but when this is impossible, one enterprising youth will collect the pennies of his companions until the amount is sufficient to hand over to the bookmaker. If the result is a winner, the gain is proportionately divided amongst the “co-operators.” This “co-operative” method did not originate with the youth but with women who club together to put on a substantial bet if they are united in their opinion about the certainty of a particular horse winning.
I am handing in for the benefit of the Committee samples of coupons which are sold in sealed envelopes at one penny each. Prizes up to 10/- can be given to the lucky holder of the winner, and a substantial profit remain to the juvenile “organisers.” The coupons are printed at home with a rubber printing outfit purchased, I believe, in Woolworths’. Every penny that the children of the district can secure is in jeopardy when the touts of this “co-operative” betting club go round to push the sale of their envelopes. These developments are all a result of the opening of the betting saloon and the recognition of betting as an “industry.”
The effects of this familiarity with betting since the opening of these saloons in my opinion are:—
(1). An interest in all forms of gambling is aroused in the impressionable youthful mind to the exclusion of all other interests and especially study in preparation for the future.
(2). The impression is conveyed that money can be acquired without work or effort with the result that habits of lazy thriftlessness are developing towards the creation of wastrels and spendthrifts.
(3). Theft and dishonesty are often directly encouraged because of the hope that the winner will enable recoupment to be made, and get rich quick at the same time.
(4). The work of the Saorstát Savings movement is naturally adversely affected especially in city and town areas. In so far as juveniles are concerned, the Savings movement provides machinery through School Savings Associations for training the children to acquire habits of wise spending, of making provision for the future, of self-discipline, of forethought, of a sense of the value of money, a sense of responsibility in the national welfare.
Other Thrift Agencies are, no doubt, equally affected.
That it be made illegal
(1) for any person under 18 years of age to enter a betting premises or to make a bet;
(2) to expose in windows of betting saloons, library or in any place to which children under 18 years of age have access to, any lists relating to horse or other racing;
(3) for any bookmaker or agent to accept a bet from a person who at the time of the transaction is in receipt of unemployment benefit.
The witness having read the first paragraph,
269. Deputy Cooper.—Mr. Quinn, you seem to be a little inconsistent in the last sentence and in a previous sentence. You say that children had no contact with the bookmaker or his agent except in the rare case when a child was sent with a bet to some person or in the still rarer case where the father had collected bets in the workshop and had sent his child during lunch hour to hand over the cash and lists. Is not the child, in that manner, likely to know whom to bet with?— No. The point in my mind was this. A concrete instance is possibly the best way to illustrate the matter. I had in the school certain boys, and one or two of them particularly were late every day after play-time. I was anxious about the boys not being in, and they told me that they had been given a message. This happened years before the Betting Act was introduced. I said to one of them: “What is the message about?” and I took the paper from his hand, opened it, and found about sixteen or seventeen shillings together with a list of names of persons and horses. I handed it back to the boy and said to him: “Where are you going with it?” He said he was going up to a butcher’s shop, and that he would pass the message across the counter to the assistant in the butcher’s shop. That boy to this day believes it was an order possibly for mutton or beef. It never dawned on him that it was a betting transaction.
270. Senator MacLoughlin.—Was that in the City of Dublin?—Yes, in Dublin.
271. The children were not conscious that they were engaged in betting?—No. The child had no other impression but that it was a message for meat for the dinner.
272. The children were not told to avoid the police or not to give the message if a policeman was looking?—That is my impression. I believe the boy was perfectly innocent about the whole matter, and the same thing applied to other boys. The message was not given to a bookmaker or a bookmaker’s tout who might be on the streets; it was given to an ordinary assistant in the butcher’s shop, who evidently took the bets for a bookmaker. That is where the children were innocent.
273. You recognise it is a serious thing for a child to be brought up in the habit of breaking the law, but it is your opinion that the child was not conscious that he was breaking the law?—Yes.
274. At what age would it begin to dawn on children that there was betting going on?—I am only familiar with children of the school-going and school-leaving age. In the conversations in the play-ground, you would never hear betting referred to previous to the establishment of the betting saloons. Of course, when the children would go to work, they might get in with workmen who would bet, and then the children would get into the practice; but they were not interested in betting during the period when they were at school.
275. I understand that there is a considerable number of children engaged in selling newspapers. Would they not know what they were doing if they were sent with betting messages?—These children are a class apart. They are not to be classed with the ordinary child leaving school. Most of them never reached the fourth standard.
276. Those children who sell the newspapers would know all about betting?— They would know a great deal about it from the early editions of the newspapers, but, as I say, they are a class apart. They are not in the same category as the average child that I have in mind at the moment.
277. Chairman.—Are they over fourteen years of age?—They must be, in order to get out.
278. Reference has been made to betting by children since the passing of the Act?—Since the Act has been passed, and since the establishment of legalised betting saloons, the conversations in the playgrounds have turned on betting. That is a new subject. In my opinion the cause is that the betting saloons are crowded at three o’clock, or shortly after, when the children are on their way home from school. The children take an interest in listening to the crowds talking, and also in listening to their fathers and mothers sometimes. They also read the betting lists. There is free access to the betting saloons, and sometimes the lists are posted up in the windows. The children hear about the winners and they hear their mothers and fathers openly talk about betting. The crowds congregate round about the betting saloons, and the general discussion, formerly private but now quite public, has tended to make the children take an interest in betting. They are taking an interest in it, and they have gone so far as to bet themselves. I refer to that matter further down where, if they have not the full sixpence themselves, they collect pennies from their confreres.
279. Would it be any help if the betting saloons were closed at one o’clock in the day? Would it tend to keep the children away if there was no access to the betting saloons after one o’clock?— From the point of view of the school-going population that would be a great help. I am not a betting man myself, but it would seem that at three o’clock the biggest crowds collect around the saloons. As I pass home every day I see them. Certainly, all the children should be in school between one o’clock and three o’clock, and from early morning until one o’clock they should be in school. They would get into trouble if they were not. If there are no betting saloons open after one o’clock it would be a help.
280. Deputy Doyle.—As regards the child bringing bets to school, I would like to ask Mr. Quinn what grounds he has for stating that the father collected the bets in the workshop?—In the instance I gave, if the father had simply been making a bet on his own he would have had the names of the horses on the paper; but he had the names of eight or ten individuals, and that showed that he was evidently putting on money for them, and I presume he took money from them to put on. That is clear enough to me.
281. Having read the second paragraph, the witness proceeded:—In regard to the reference to women, I think it was from the mothers, especially in the streets with which I am familiar, that the children got the idea of collecting bets from each other. One mother who might be a keen gambler would collect money from her neighbours and bring it to the bookmaker. The children seeing that, naturally would imitate what the mother was doing. They would collect pennies from the children around until they would have sixpence; then they would bet the sixpence and divide the winnings, if any. Mr. MacNeive, who is attached to the thrift movement, will give very valuable evidence as a result of his experience on this question of children betting.
282. Deputy Cooper.—With regard to what you say about co-operative betting, we had a recommendation from a previous witness that a minimum should be fixed for a bet and that the minimum should be two shillings. If there is co-operation amongst young people, it will take a large number to make up the two shillings?— The suggestion I make is that there should be a very substantial minimum in order to preclude children from making bets co-operatively. Possibly, a very substantial minimum bet might hit the working man, and in the circumstances I thought that a half-crown should be the minimum. It is much easier for the children to gather six pennies than it would be to gather thirty. I believe a minimum of half-a-crown would go a long way in prohibiting the co-operative principle. It is difficult to get thirty boys in a street, each giving a penny.
283. You say that children read the betting columns and consult the lists of horses and prices displayed outside and inside the saloons. Could you substantiate that?—Long ago you would never hear any talk about betting in the schoolroom or in the play-ground, but latterly it is the chief topic of conversation. When a big race is on, it is the chief discussion among boys mature enough to talk about it. Further, the betting saloons displayed names and prices not merely inside, but in their windows. The children take a keen interest in these displays on their way to school in the morning, and it is astonishing how boys of twelve years can tell you the prices of horses that day. They see them hung up in the windows of the betting offices. We have conversation lessons in different standards. I have a third standard, and when the conversation lesson turns to horses at all, or if the subject comes up in any way—I brought it up once or twice for curiosity— it is astonishing the knowledge the children possess of racing—far more than I do.
284. Deputy Cooper.—That is in the city?—Yes.
285. Have you any knowledge how far that condition prevails in the country?— Practically in all the towns it is the same. Mr. MacNeive, if he follows me, will substantiate a great deal of this from his own personal experience and what he has gathered from organisers. In the conversation about horses the knowledge displayed by the children is remarkable, and it is out of all proportion to the knowledge possessed by children before the betting saloons became public resorts.
286. I think the material thing for us to get at is what effect the recent developments in betting have had on the education of the children, that is, I think, a thing of far more importance than whether there is co-operation or co-operative betting or anything else. Will you tell us, Mr. Quinn, what is your opinion, as an old national teacher, as to the effects educationally on those boys? Is it retarding education or is it militating against the absorbing of anything at all in the schools?—That is a question to which it is very difficult to give a concrete answer, but you can simply draw the conclusion that if a child gets into a betting groove or into betting surroundings, his will is weakened and his desire to concentrate on anything except making bets and making money by them and getting rich quickly is weakened considerably. The enthusiasm of betting people or race-goers is such that it captures the imagination of youth. You have this new thing, and the minds of the children are filled with conversation about horses and racing, so that they cannot concentrate on their school work. This sort of thing has the effect of weakening their powers of concentration and of looking to the future and working for the future. That is the danger of the whole thing.
287. The disadvantage of that exceeds anything that they gain in arithmetic?— Well, I sometimes have to laugh at just that side of the question. I have one boy and he cannot read at all scarcely. If you give him an abstract question in arithmetic he is not very good, but if you bring in horses or dogs into the question, or if you bring in anything in the nature of gambling, it is extraordinary how quick he can give you the right answer. Now this boy’s father is obsessed by horse-racing, and when the boy requires money for books or anything like that, he will not send the money, but he will send up a note to say “if you send me up a winner I will get the money for the books.”
288. Deputy Doyle.—I was astonished to hear from you that there was such a thing in connection with this betting business as penny coupons.
289. Chairman.—We are just coming on to that point.
Having read the third paragraph, the witness proceeded:—I will explain what these envelopes are. Formerly I saw boys making these envelopes at home. Now they buy them. They do all the printing themselves with this rubber printing outfit. For one penny you will get a coupon. When you open it you will get the football coupon on one side and on the other side you will get a winner of a race for the particular day. You get the whole lot for a penny. If your team wins you go back and you get 10/- for the penny. If your team loses you get nothing. But you always have a chance of going down and putting sixpence on a horse.
290. Senator MacLoughlin.—Is this coupon business transacted in the betting shops?—No, but the children have become so obsessed with betting that this is done privately in the home, and instead of doing the home lesson and having it done right this is what the children spend their time at.
291. Where do they go to draw the sixpence?—In one particular case, just before the Christmas, one of my own children bought three of these coupons, and one of them won and he got ten shillings. The total amount of the coupons sold covers the 10/- and leaves a profit. When they get these coupons, one boy will take one dozen, say, of them and pay a penny each.
292. This is extremely interesting, but it is illegal. This is not allowed by the 1926 Betting Act?—Yes, but it can be indirectly attributed to the betting saloons; it is indirectly due to them and to the conversation that goes on there. The privacy in connection with betting previously has been taken away.
293. Deputy MacEntee.—Where do they collect the prize money—where did your boy collect this 10/-?—Through a lad in charge of this co-operative betting society.
294. It would not be possible that there is an adult behind the whole thing?—I would not like to say that; it might suggest itself all right. This lad who pays over the money is only seventeen years of age. Here is one item in it—the boys will not trust each other. The envelopes are gummed, but they see to it that they make assurance doubly sure, and to do that they stitch the envelopes right across so that they could not open them with steam while they are out selling them. Here is one for next Saturday, and if the Chairman will accept it from me, he will have the privilege perhaps of receiving ten shillings (10/-). This envelope gives the Preston Club, and the horse for that day is Rossini.
295. Chairman.—Are they always for football results?—Yes, football results, but horse-racing is thrown in.
296. Deputy MacEntee.—On the supposition that you buy a tip?—Yes, you get a tip as well. Now that was a thing absolutely unknown until this craze about betting came on. It is a serious matter for the character of the children.
297. Senator MacLoughlin. — This coupon business was in existence before the Betting Act of 1926?—In a general way for adults, but not for children. The eldest boy in that whole firm is only seventeen years and the youngest is only seven. No penny is safe now in a child’s pocket when you have these touts going round.
298. They must be reading Dr. Smiles’ “Self-Help?”—Well, I have trouble in my own family over it. On thinking it over and from observation, I believe that it is familiarity with betting since the opening of these saloons that is responsible for this. It is because of access to these saloons being allowed to the children that the injury is done. They are familiarised with gambling.
299. Witness having read the fourth paragraph proceeded:—I find amongst the boys that in the evenings they are going around the whole neighbourhood talking about horses. The result is that they are not concentrating on the home lessons, and if these home lessons are done at all they are done in a miserable way.
300. Deputy Doyle.—Do you not consider that a lot of this was going on even before the passing of the Betting Act?— Not to my knowledge, I must confess.
301. You have heard of children selling tickets for bazaars?—Yes, but these are for religious missions, and the children do not look upon this as betting. They look upon it as a religious act to sell those tickets. These tickets are for charities, for religious purposes and for church-building, and the children consider it a most praiseworthy thing and an act of charity. These things have nothing whatever to do in their minds with betting.
302. Buying for sixpence a ticket which offers a prize of £50?—If the object is a charitable one, or if the boy sells these tickets for a church purpose, the idea in his mind is that he is helping a religious work rather than promoting gambling.
303. Could you not argue that it was actually promoting gambling?—You might say that, but the direct object is such as to counter the evil. But in these other cases of the coupons the direct object is pure gambling, and there is not a single redeeming feature in it. Now with regard to what I have said about acquiring habits of thriftlessness and the creation of wastrels and spendthrifts, I would suggest that Mr. MacNeive, of the Savings Certificates Department, can give valuable information through what he has heard from the Thrift organisers on that question. He can give you a number of examples. As a matter of fact, the next memorandum you get in which I am interested has been prepared by Mr. Mullett and Mr. MacNeive from the replies to a questionnaire sent round to all the organisers in the country, and a great deal of information has been got back from these. Mr. MacNeive is ready to give you this information.
304. Deputy Cooper.—Are you not rather getting away from the Teachers’ Organisation’s evidence?—Yes, but I am finished now, and I am a member of the Savings Committee. I have known instances down the country lately of boys stealing eggs, bringing them in and selling them, and putting the money on horses. Very often the idea is that if they put the money on the horse they are putting it on a sure thing, and they will be able to return the money before the stealing is discovered, and that they will have made some money as well for themselves. That is the danger that I fear from the point of view of honesty.
305. The coupons seem to be very elaborate, and they are very interesting. I wonder could you give me any sort of idea as to that part of the matter? They are very carefully prepared. Might it not be that they are imported here from England. We know that coupon betting has existed very largely in England. Might is not be possible that these have been imported and not prepared here?—No, because I have seen them made here myself. I have seen them printed, and I have seen them stitched. I have seen the whole thing done myself. I have seen the boys cut out the envelopes and paste them. This is being done more cheaply now when they find that they can buy the envelopes.
306. Are you certain that this boy you mention is the prime mover in the matter?—There are two or three boys. There are four firms working in different parts of the city. The prime mover in one of these is this boy of 17 years of age. This boy has charge of this betting. The other boys help him out. This boy has left school.
307. Are all his associates students?— Practically all except three or four. All the touts he sends round to sell them are school-going children. This boy himself was working, but he is idle now. I am told he made 25/- last week at this business. The other boys saw there was money in it.
308. So that the boy in charge of this is a boy who has left school?—Yes, but the firm is mostly composed of school-children.
309. Would you suggest that it should be made a serious offence to circulate these coupons amongst school-children?— It is an offence already.
310. Yes, but apparently it is connived at and winked at because the coupons for large amounts are sold in a good many shops and in a good many works in the town, and there does not seem to be very serious action taken with regard to it. It begins to be detrimental to school-children. I would like to know whether you feel that it should be made an offence to sell these coupons?—I would make it an offence to sell them to boys under 18. It should be considered really a very serious offence.
311. These coupons are circulated through the schools now?—I never actually saw them in the school, except that possibly a lad might have one in his book.
312. I take it that the coupons that are handed in were not prepared in the school?—Oh, no; they were prepared by the youngsters outside the schoolhouse, and one of my own children bought a couple of them.
313. Bought them from boys or bought them from shops?—These are not sold in the shops. The shop business is not what it was. I think it was made illegal in England to sell them. I do not think they are so common now as among the bigger children. These coupons are all sold through the streets where the lads are playing or in the recreation grounds outside the school.
314. Which do you consider the most serious evil—the selling of these coupons by the boys or clubbing together and making a bet?—Well, both are nearly equally bad. I do not like the coupons in one way especially, but I think all the same that betting is the most serious evil. After all, the coupons refer only to football matches, though a winner is given in horse-racing. But in regard to the making of bets the boy is brought into direct touch with betting people. Once the boy starts making a bet it will be hard to keep him from it.
315. Deputy Doyle.—Do you think that these coupons are made at home by the boys?—Well, I think the rubber outfits are sold in Woolworths’ and in McQuillan’s in Capel Street. What I mean is that the little rubber equipment with which the printing is done is sold in Woolworths’ and in McQuillan’s in Capel Street. You can build up any word at all from this little rubber equipment or outfit. You will get the whole outfit for a shilling or one-and-sixpence.
316. Would you make any suggestion as to some manner in which the evil, as it affects the children, could be met, or any way in which a new Betting Bill could be framed so as to do away with that evil?— That it be made illegal for any person under eighteen years of age to enter betting premises or to make a bet. I would be inclined to make the age twenty-one, but eighteen is fairly high. A youth of eighteen is fairly mature, and if he wanted to bet he could bet through his older neighbour beside him, who would make the bet for him.
317. Would it not be very difficult, if not impossible, for an ordinary bookmaker, or a man running a betting shop, to decide the age of a person who wants to make a bet?—In some cases it might, as appearances are sometimes deceptive. The only remedy for that would be to make the age twenty-one.
318. Chairman.—I put a question on that point to Mr. Cussen here the other day, and he said they would have the same opportunity of knowing the age as the publicans have of knowing the age as regards young persons who enter their premises.
319. Senator Parkinson.—Is it within your knowledge that in no State outside the Free State is there such a thing as legalised money betting?—I cannot answer, as I have no knowledge whatever on that point.
320. You do not know that we are the pioneers of this new legislation?—I have no idea.
321. You have no suggestion to make to the Committee except to deplore the evil effects betting is having, and to say that in your opinion the betting age should be raised to eighteen?—That is one suggestion, and another suggestion is that it be made illegal to expose in the windows of betting saloons or in public libraries, or in any place to which children under eighteen have access, any lists relating to horse or other racing.
322. How would that affect newspapers that supply all this information?—Most people do not read the morning papers. The evening papers are more extensively read. I am concerned with the children, and I do not think the morning papers would make them anything more interested in racing than they are at present, that is unless their curiosity has already been aroused through the display of those betting lists and prices in the betting saloon windows, and so on. The thing to aim at is to keep children out of the betting saloons, and having that end in view, lists relating to horse or other racing should not be exposed in the windows of betting saloons or in public libraries. I think there is a children’s section in the public libraries, and the newspapers going into such a section should not have any betting news. That should be eliminated.
323. You propose to punish the person who makes a bet but not the bookmaker, and that it be made illegal for a person under eighteen to enter betting premises or to make a bet?—A publican is prosecuted for selling drink to a child under a certain age. I would prosecute both. I would prosecute the bookmaker and put him on the same level as the publican.
324. We have had a suggestion from the Chief Commissioner of the Gárdaí that betting transactions in offices by young persons under eighteen years of age should be made an offence and punishable by a severe penalty, and he thinks the Gárdaí could see to that?—I would certainly punish the bookmaker. At present publicans are very careful as regards children going into public houses.
325. Your second recommendation makes it an offence to expose in any place to which children under eighteen years of age have access any list relating to horse or other racing. That is more drastic than you realise?—What I mean is exposing in the windows of betting saloons, libraries or other public places.
326. You do not intend that I should keep the “Irish Times” or the “Irish Independent” locked up to prevent my children having access to them?—You must take what I have suggested in the spirit in which it is written in the memorandum.
327. General O’Duffy recommended that betting lists or sporting sheets should not be exhibited in licensed book-makers’ premises. You would include the free libraries?—That is in my mind. I would like to include public libraries. Many young people go to the children’s section to get a quiet place away from their tenement rooms to do their home lessons and study in preparation for the next day. That should be encouraged and more facilities should be given in that direction. I suggest that there should be a minimum bet of half-a-crown. That would make it more difficult for children to make a collection for the purpose of having a bet.
328. Chairman.—With regard to your suggestion as to lists relating to horse or other racing, would you take it that the betting columns in an ordinary newspaper constitute betting lists?—They would be lists, but it would be a question as to whether they would be exposed. I am not sure about that.
329. Deputy Anthony.—Would it meet your point if, after the word “lists,” you inserted the words “other than news-papers”?—If I were to speak for the grown-up people rather than the children I would not, because I believe it is the early editions and the big prices quoted that tempt people to try and make money quickly.
330. Senator MacLoughlin.—Are not the prices given in the evening papers as well as in the early editions?—It is the early editions that do the damage.
331. Deputy Anthony.—Would you agree to your second recommendation or suggested amendment reading: “To expose in windows of betting saloons, libraries, or in any place to which children under 18 years have access, any lists relating to horse or other racing other than those given in newspapers”?
332. Deputy MacEntee.—Do you propose to alter your recommendation so as to include newspapers?—There is no use in recommending a thing that cannot be carried out. It would be silly to suggest that we could keep children away from newspapers.
333. Deputy Anthony’s suggestion would mean that a bookmaker could cut out the betting page of the newspaper and expose it in his window and that would be legal?—I do not agree with that.
334. Deputy Cooper.—You said there was no good in making recommendations that could not be carried out. Could your recommendation in the No. 3 suggested amendment be carried out?—I withdraw that.
335. Deputy Anthony.—I think, speaking generally, Mr. Quinn believes that every obstacle possible should be placed in the way of children coming into contact with betting places?—Yes, undoubtedly. I would keep the subject of the matter of betting as far away from their minds as possible.
The witness then withdrew.
EVIDENCE OF THE CENTRAL SAVINGS COMMITTEE ON THE BETTING ACT, 1926, AND ITS EFFECTS ON THE SAORSTAT EIREANN SAVINGS MOVEMENT.
336. The following memorandum was submitted:—
In response to the request of the Joint Committee on the Betting Act, 1926, the Central Savings Committee decided to place their views before the next sitting of the Joint Committee, when they will be represented by Mr. T. P. Gill (Chairman); Very Rev. J. Flanagan, P.P. (Representative on Central Savings Committee of His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin); Mr. P. J. Quinn (Representative on Central Savings Committee of Irish National Teachers’ Organisation); Mr. H. A. Mullett, B.L. (Secretary, Central Savings Committee), and Mr. L. McNeive (Supt. State Savings Officer). The Committee issued a questionnaire to the members of their extern staff to elicit any information likely to be of value as to the effect of the present betting facilities on the work of the movement. The duties of these State Savings Officers involve (a) the constant visiting of all schools, business places, workshops, factories, offices, as well as social and other groups, with a view to the formation of Savings Associations, and (b) the establishment of Local Savings Committees in the chief towns and centres in the country.
The Committee think it well to explain here that a Savings Association is a co-operative Savings Club which enables its members to purchase Savings Certificates by instalments as low as a penny, with the advantage of a pre-dated Certificate. It may be formed by any group (small or large) of persons who have a common place of meeting—e.g., a school, workshop, etc. At present there are working in the country 2,103 such Associations, 199 being in firms and miscellaneous groups, the balance, 1,904, being in schools. (Further statistics regarding Associations are attached).
A Regional or Local Savings Committee is within its area a branch of the Central Savings Committee, and, like it, is a voluntary organising propagandist body, representing all interests, social, educational and economic. Its purpose is to promote the ideals of the movement for constructive thrift and to supervise and stimulate the progress of the work within its area. Up to the present 30 such committees have been established throughout the country, and several others are in course of formation.
The following are the views expressed by the State Savings Officers in reply to the questionnaire issued to them:—
(1) The movement has been affected adversely by the facilities for betting conferred by the Betting Act, 1926. The adverse effect is more noticeable in the towns than in the rural districts. Prior to the passing of the Act betting transactions were carried out in secret for fear of the law. People were afraid or ashamed to bet and betting was not so openly discussed. With the passing of the Act, however, betting has become a more common topic of conversation. The establishment of betting saloons has turned the people’s minds towards the idea of making money quickly, and has given rise to a large increase in the number of people who make bets.
(2) Lack of support for existing Savings Associations has followed, and this is borne out by teachers and others engaged on this voluntary work. Teachers complain that parents have money to gamble, but none to save or even to buy necessary books for their children. They cannot arouse any interest in the children or, through them, the parents, although these are the very people for whom the Savings Association was designed and are those from whom the Commission Agents derive their most regular business. In one case fifteen workmen in a Workshop Savings Association withdrew all their subscriptions, amounting to a considerable sum, the day before a local race meeting. This affected the working of the Association, and the management gave instructions that these men were not to be re-admitted as members.
(3) In many cases it has been found impossible to form Savings Associations among employees in firms, offices, workshops, etc., because of betting. The idea of waiting to receive £1 in 5 years or £1 6s. 0d. in 10 years is often ridiculed, and one is told frankly that it is preferable to gamble one’s savings with the chance of trebling or quadrupling them at once than to wait years for a few shillings’ interest.
In the matter of forming School Savings Associations, very often the reasons given in (2) above are advanced by teachers as the cause of their inability to try and form associations.
(4) (a) With regard to working men and their families, the Betting Act has given rise to increased interest in betting, especially on the part of the wives and children.
(b) Women appear to bet without any particular knowledge of their chances of winning. They are known to club together and place small bets in a lump sum with a bookmaker.
Facilities are afforded to women by unauthorised persons, the procedure being to accept all bets but transfer only the “dangerous” ones to the licensed bookmaker. As women are usually not well-informed on racing matters these unauthorised persons are generally able to make a profit on these transactions.
(c) Prior to the passing of the Act betting among children was practically non-existent. They have now become so familiarised with betting through the example of their elders, and the display of betting lists in saloon windows, etc., that any odd sixpences or shillings that come their way are used for gambling either on horses or in connection with football coupon competitions.
(5) Members of Savings Committees and Hon. Officers of Savings Associations are unanimously of the opinion that betting is on the increase. They consider that this is bound to interfere seriously in the future with the work of any movement to promote thrift. They consider that the Thrift Movement provides a much-needed antidote to the craze for gambling. Many employers welcome the introduction of the movement to their workpeople, as they fear that betting may have a bad effect on their honesty and efficiency.
(6) Betting has been the cause, or certainly a contributory cause, of the lapsing of Savings Associations, but it is difficult to prove this by direct evidence.
The saving movement stands for constructive thrift, which means, from the individual standpoint, not mere hoarding of money, but saving with a view to wise and productive spending later. From the national standpoint, it means broadening the base of the national welfare by facilitating the regular investment of small savings by people and spreading the sense of civic responsibility. As in other countries, it is assisted by the issue of a State-guaranteed certificate, designed expressly for the case of small savings. Such movements are proving one of the most valuable aids in the work of building up national and individual prosperity. Their social, moral and educational effects are most noteworthy; they help to strengthen the character of the people, to foster the habit of forethought and thrift and the sense of worthy personal independence. They tend to bring people helpfully together in the Regional and Local Committees and Associations for co-operative thrift; they also help to improve the relations between employers and employed. Working through schools, offices, workships, business houses, etc., the educational influence of these associations is direct. The movement provides a common platform on which all citizens, without distinction, may join in promoting the national welfare.
The Committee, naturally, is most concerned regarding the inculcation of habits of thrift amongst young people, especially the school-going population. They look upon the movement as calculated to have a very beneficent effect on family life, and in their propaganda pay special attention to this phrase of the work.
From all the information at their disposal the Committee is thoroughly satisfied that the present prevalence of gambling and its probable increase in the future must necessarily have a serious effect in retarding the movement and nullifying to a great extent the efforts of the large body of thinking citizens who devote their time and energies voluntarily to the social, moral and educational upliftment of the people.
H. A. MULLETT,
Central Savings Committee,
31st January, 1929.
The Gross Sales represent an investment of £1 11s. 10d. per head of the population.
Note.—The net working total of Associations at date is 2,103.
Mr. T. P. Gill (Chairman), called and examined, said:—
337. In introducing our evidence I should like to say one word as to our point of view. We have drawn up a brief memorandum of our views, and with it a summary of the answers to the questionnaire we sent out to our extern organising staff. My colleagues and I will be ready to answer any question on this memorandum. Father Flanagan, as well as Mr. Quinn, has an exceptional experience of life among the poorer classes of a great city. I think it will help in making our position clearer to the inquiry if I point out that in the constructive thrift movement our mode of action is, before everything else, educational. In all its other aspects—economic, financial, social, industrial—the movement is of enormous importance. There is none more important as an agency for reconstruction and nation-building, working with other agencies. But both in its essential purpose and in its methods it is educational—that is to say, it has to do with the production of a state of mind, with propaganda.
The planning and working out of our propaganda has been one of the most anxious and constant tasks of our Committee, at which men have laboured and revised with a lifetime’s intimate knowledge of the circumstances of the country and the mentality of our people, the adult and the young. Every line, I may say every word, of it, both of what is printed and spoken, has been gone over again and again in the endeavour to effect the difficult mental influence at which it aims. And now what we find, since the gambling mania has set in, is the appearance of another propaganda calculated to upset, and actually upsetting, this teaching, and amongst the classes we are most anxious to reach.
We aim, for example, at strengthening the character of the people by introducing habits of order, forethought, the sense of worthy personal independence, fortifying the institution of the family. This is done with the help of co-operative association in the family, the school and the workshop. We call the idea “Constructive Thrift” to show that it is by no means hoarding, but saving for wise spending at a later stage on well-planned, constructive purposes.
Mr. Quinn has given you striking instances of the change in the mentality of the pupils in the schools, who knew nothing about betting before, but who are now making books on races themselves. Among the parents the “get-rich-quick” virus is taking a hold and the slow methods of the Savings Associations make no appeal. One of our organisers, in reply to the questionnaire, reports: “The idea of waiting to receive £1 in 5 years or £1 6s. 0d. in 10 years is often ridiculed, and one is told frankly that it is preferable to gamble one’s savings with the chance of trebling or quadrupling them at once than to wait years for a few shillings interest.” That sentence epitomises the mental battle that is going on amongst the people as between the one propaganda and the other. The remedy, I am sure, will be reached. The idea of making whatever betting was to be done a light-of-day instead of a hole-and-corner transaction is a sound one, and correctives will be found for the harmful advertising effects. Besides, the constructive thrift movement —whose progress in terms of money may be gauged by the investment of more than a million in Savings Certificates in nine months—is now a most powerful influence in school and family and its momentum is bound to increase, especially with the growth of the series of Regional Savings Committees throughout the country. But the danger at this juncture of the counter-influence is very great, and it is very necessary to devise measures for meeting it.
The memorandum which we have put in represents the view of the Committee. We drew it up carefully after sending out a questionnaire to our organisers throughout the country. The answers are embodied in the memorandum which summarises our point of view.
Father Flanagan, called and examined.
338. Deputy Doyle.—Having read the memorandum submitted, I think we could shorten the discussion to some extent by asking Father Flanagan if he has any suggestions to offer regarding the amending of the Act, or if he thinks there are any abuses that need the serious consideration of the Committee?—It is our view that the opening of the betting saloons has impeded the work of the Savings Committees. That applies particularly to a certain class of people, but among other classes of people betting has not very much increased by the opening of the saloons and the working of the 1926 Act. A considerable number of people have not yet been reached by the thrift movement and these we are trying to reach. Their interest, an interest which they had not before, in gambling has been aroused and it is rather difficult to get at them. Anything that would make it difficult for these children and their parents to get to the betting saloons and that would extinguish the gambling spirit would be welcome. It is not easy to see how the Act could be amended. It is nearly as difficult as the question of prohibition versus the saloons in America. In the old days when we had prohibition in this matter we had plenty of speak-easies, but now that it has been legalised, it is not easy to see how the gambling spirit can be damped down immediately. I have no particular suggestion to make, except the general one with regard to the lines adopted by the liquor legislation. I was a member of the Liquor Commission, and the evidence showed that there were two or three elements that made for temperance. One was price. Here you have the suggestion about the minimum bet. The other was the question of hours. Here you have the suggestion regarding the restrictions on the hours of opening and closing the betting saloons. The third element was the various restrictions as to the age of people going into those places. These three things made for temperance to a great extent, as proved by the evidence given before the Liquor Commission.
339. Would you be in favour of the entire repeal of the Act of 1926?—And going back to the old system?
340. Yes?—No. The violation of the law, which was openly connived at, had a bad effect upon people.
341. We had evidence from General O’Duffy to the effect that there would probably be a big increase in street betting if we went back to the old system. You endorse the suggestion of Mr. Quinn as to age, and you make the further one that there should be a limitation as to the hours of opening and closing?—Yes.
342. Chairman.—You emphasise the evidence of Mr. Quinn in regard to the great injury done to school children and their mothers?—Yes.
343. It is stated in the memorandum that the work of the savings movement is naturally adversely affected by the operations of the Betting Act. Have you any figures to show the extent of that adverse effect?—The figures would seem to deny the truth of that statement. The figures show that the sales of Savings Certificates have gone up considerably since 1926, the year of the Betting Act, and that a great number of people who were not thrifty before are thrifty now. The people affected by the 1926 Act are the people who have not been got at by any thrift movement. It is five years since the saving movement was started, and we have not had time to get at them yet.
344. Deputy Cooper.—Your movement had not got fully into working order before 1926?—We started in 1924.
345. The increase in savings may be due to the increased efficiency of your machinery?—Yes, to a great extent, and also to the fact that the people who were not drawn into the gambling movement were more easily got at by the saving movement.
346. You suggest that facilities for betting should be curtailed?—Yes.
347. Do you not consider that the increase in the amount of money invested in Savings Certificates is due considerably to the activities of your organisers rather than to any voluntary movement among the people themselves?—Yes.
348. It is due to Mr. Gill and the organisers?—Yes.
349. And were it not for their activities there would be no voluntary movement on the part of the people?—I could hardly answer that, as it is a rather hypothetical question.
350. Do you not think that it is really due to their activities and the way they put the case before the people?—Yes.
351. Deputy Doyle.—Could you give us instances where children, instead of investing their money, put it into gambling?—In my school in Fairview for the last three years I have been trying to get a Savings Certificate Association going. We had the greatest possible difficulty. The children deposit their sixpences, buy their certificates and cash them long before they come to maturity. I have not been able to get direct evidence, but I have a strong suspicion that that is done, not through mere want, but owing to something like a race meeting for which they want the money. It is difficult to get them to keep their money in certificates.
352. Deputy MacEntee.—You say that facilities are afforded to women by unauthorised persons to make bets. Have you any evidence of that?—Only observation. Perhaps Mr. Mullett or Mr. MacNeive could give more direct evidence on that.
353. Senator Parkinson.—Would you make any specific recommendation as to the hours of opening or closing betting offices?—I am not sufficiently acquainted with racing generally to make a suggestion.
354. Deputy Anthony.—You heard Mr. Quinn’s evidence, and you are aware of the valuable co-operation which you get from teachers. Mr. Quinn’s suggestion, I think, was to close the betting shops during the play-time of the children between one and two o’clock?—I think his suggestion was that the betting saloons should be closed when the children were going home from school.
354a. You agree in the main with Mr. Quinn’s evidence?—Certainly, as a manager of a school.
355. Deputy Doyle.—Three o’clock is the general closing hour for school?— Two-thirty for infants, and three o’clock for the others.
Chairman.—Thank you very much; we are very grateful for your evidence.
Mr. MacNeive, called and examined.
356. Chairman.—Perhaps you had better deal with the whole matter comprehensively and not seriatim from the memorandum?—I can answer any questions regarding the external work of the organisation.
357. Deputy Doyle.—I presume that you started the thrift movement before the passing of the Act?—We started the external organisation in April, 1925, about twelve months before the passing of the Act.
358. Did you find that there was any disinclination on the part of the people to contribute to your movement?—The work for the first year was mainly pioneer work in the schools. Fifteen hundred associations were formed, but since then many of them had to dissolve owing to lack of support, especially since the passing of the Betting Act.
359. Is that due to economic depression rather than to betting?—In some districts it would be due to economic depression, but not generally. In many places while support of the associations declined the number of betting saloons increased, so that that shows that money, which in the ordinary course would be invested in Savings Certificates, has gone to betting saloons.
360. Deputy MacEntee.—Have you any figures showing the apparent increase in betting saloons and the decrease in the number of saving associations?—No, but that has been my general experience, particularly in towns. We established several associations in 1925 and they were well supported. At that time it was generally assumed that economic conditions were worse than they are to-day. Since then, however, a number of them were dissolved.
361. Perhaps the associations started during the year ending March, 1926, were started in favourable places and thus managed to provide?—No, they were established generally without regard to conditions or to place. We established associations in the larger towns and in the schools.
362. The rate of mortality among your associations in 1928 was much higher?— Yes, that is my point. The mortality of associations has been increased since the Betting Act.
363. Chairman.—Is it your opinion in regard to the sixpence which a poor person spends in a betting saloon, that if the opportunity to bet were removed the person would be inclined to put the sixpence to a thrifty purpose?—The chief object of the thrift movement is not to get money but to create a national asset by making thrifty citizens out of those who were improvident. Any other movement which attracts small sums of money without giving a guarantee of their return, with profit, must militate against the thrift movement.
364. Supposing a poor person had sixpence to bet with, and if the opportunity for betting were taken away, is it likely that that sixpence would go into the thrift movement?—I believe it would, if not to our association, perhaps to the Post Office Savings Bank.
365. I am speaking of a sixpence which is not needed for food or clothes?—Yes. Our propaganda is universal, and every person, through the schools, knows the objects and advantages of the thrift movement. They are brought home to him.
366. Your opinion would rather be at variance with that of other witnesses who suggested that parents pawned articles belonging to their children in order to bet?—I have testimony from teachers to the effect that there are people who are unemployed and who are on the dole, but who are able to find money for betting. There is a slight difference of opinion.
367. Deputy Anthony.—In 1926, according to your memorandum, there were 1,648 associations established, and the number in 1928 was 266. How far did unemployment, which has been on the increase from 1926 to 1928, affect the formation of these associations?—It would be very hard to answer that question. In certain districts the teachers and other voluntary workers say that the people have nothing to invest, so that in those circumstances you cannot expect them to save. There is a small proportion of people who can save even in the very worst districts. According to the testimony of teachers and others, people cannot invest owing to economic depression. bad conditions, or, perhaps, gambling.
368. Deputy Cooper.—May I ask if you are responsible for the memorandum? —The extern officers, of whom I am one, provided the material for the memorandum. The draft of it was prepared by Mr. Mullett, the secretary.
369. I take it that you are familiar with the general history of the Savings Associations. In the year 1929, 189 savings associations were formed, and of these 69 were dissolved, 26 suspended and I was amalgamated. The position, therefore, is this, that 96 do not now operate as separate units. With regard to these 96, were they associations that had been founded in 1929, or had they been founded in earlier years?—With regard to the dissolutions; these took place within that particular year.
370. Then the figures given for 1929 do not refer to associations formed during that year?—No. They may have been formed in earlier years.
371. Could you tell us how many of the associations formed in 1929 have been dissolved, suspended or otherwise accounted for?—With regard to the table given for 1929, that only deals with nine months of the year—to the 31st of December, 1928.
372. Well, take the year 1928?—It would be very hard to answer your question because, as a rule, we give an association about twelve months to enable it to work itself up and obtain members. With regard to suspensions, we only suspend an association for a short time, say for a period of six months, in order to give it another trial and a chance at a later stage of its being revived.
373. I would like to have material from you whereby I could test your information on the point that the number of savings associations declined as the number of betting shops increased. I may say that I am not hostile to you, but I would like very much to have that information. I am anxious to get from you, if I can, the history of the savings associations from the moment they were founded until the moment they expired. I would like, for instance, to have the history of savings associations founded during the years 1927 and 1928 to see how they managed to survive the attack of counter-propaganda?—That information cannot be obtained from the table before you, but it is information that could be supplied.
374. It would be very useful if the Committee could have it?—There is another matter that I would like to refer to. There are a number of associations still in being which are practically moribund. They are not functioning at all. They may have one or two members, and as long as there is a lingering hope of their coming to anything we do not suspend or dissolve them. It is quite probable that several hundred associations have gone down and become useless because of the effects of betting, associations which were good live associations in the early stages.
The witness retired.
Mr. H. A. Mullett, B.L. (Secretary, Central Savings Committee) called and examined.
375. Chairman.—Do you wish to amplify the memorandum, Mr. Mullett? —My knowledge is of a general kind. I am constantly travelling all over the country. I have visited practically every county in the Free State, all I think, with the exception of three. I am in touch with the members of the committees and with the honorary officers of the associations. I have had opportunities, too, of conferring with the members of the extern staff, and I have found everywhere that there is the opinion, especially amongst employers and of thinking citizens generally, that betting is bound to have a bad effect on the future of this movement. When drawing up this memorandum, I simply boiled down the answers to the questionnaire that takes up practically the whole of it.
Chairman.—It has been very carefully prepared and is very detailed as far as it goes.
376. It is a very valuable diagnosis of the disease, but it does not suggest any remedy?—No.
376a. Have you any remedy to suggest?—I do not think we were asked to suggest a remedy. I am not a betting man myself and I have not given much thought to it, but I think that any steps that can be taken, such as those suggested by Mr. Quinn, would have the effect of improving matters so far as the savings movement is concerned. I think you cannot have two frames of mind— that is, betting and thrift—in the one person.
377. And the logical consequence of that would be that betting should be abolished altogether, and then, perhaps, that racing should be abolished altogether, if we want to get the utmost possible thrift practised. Does your association think it is possible to do that?—No; we think it absolutely impossible, but we think that betting should be curtailed amongst the people for whom this thrift movement was built up—the poorer classes.
378. I would like to call your attention to the following paragraph on page 2 of the memorandum: “Facilities are afforded to women by unauthorised persons, the procedure being to accept all bets, but transfer only the ‘dangerous’ ones to the licensed bookmaker.” That procedure could have existed prior to the passing of the 1926 Act. An unauthorised person could have accepted money and transferred it to a bookmaker over the ’phone, as it was not illegal to make a bet over the ’phone. I suggest to you that this is not merely a question of dealing with an Act, but dealing with human nature, and you recognise, I am sure, that it is harder for the Oireachtas to amend human nature than to amend an Act?— Yes.
379. We were dealing with human nature when we introduced the Licensing Act. What you suggest, Mr. Mullett, is that the facilities for betting should be decreased?—Yes.
380. I think there is common agreement amongst all the witnesses that the facilities for betting should be curtailed in some way?—Yes.
381. Have you been connected with the savings movement outside the Saorstát? —I have. I was one of the first officials on the staff of the British savings movement, and it so happens that I lived near the headquarters of racing—at Newmarket. I had a good deal of experience there from about 1919 to 1923.
382. Was there any difference in the working in the movement outside the Saorstát as compared with inside it?— No. I was sent here on loan from the British Treasury. I prepared all the machinery here on the lines of the British movement, using, of course, all the good points in the movement over there and eliminating the bad ones.
383. From the experience that you have had of betting outside and inside the Saorstát, how do you think it has affected the thrift movement?—There was no question of a Betting Act or of licensed betting saloons in my time in England. I was Commissioner for East Anglia. In the Newmarket area we had a local savings committee. In my time there I tried two or three times to reorganise the savings committee in Newmarket, but you could not get the movement going in the schools or amongst the workers. You could not arouse interest in it, because everyone there talked of betting and nothing else. I have seen young fellows there on very small wages—I think they were apprentices—and I have known them to be able to change £10 notes. The gentleman who was honorary secretary of the committee there told me that it was practically impossible to get people to come along and promote the thrift movement in the area because of betting.
384. Deputy Cooper.—Arising out of your last answer, may I ask if you have any local savings committee in Kildare or Newbridge?—Four weeks ago we started the savings committee at Naas. At that meeting we had a very “racy” speech delivered by Mr. Odlum, a well-known employer, and he recommended the people there to look to the movement for saving certificates and to back it as against the horses. We are having a meeting in Kildare on Friday night next, when we intend starting a savings committee for Newbridge and district. We have been told that it would be a rather difficult thing to make it a success in Newbridge. I have been told by some responsible people there that we should not go there to form a savings committee—that the place is too poor— while the other night I was told by a member of the Seanad and some others connected with the proposed committee that there were five bookmakers making a living in Newbridge.
385. Chairman.—Your experience in Newmarket cannot make you very keen on it there?—No.
386. You state here that “Facilities are afforded to women by unauthorised persons.” Can you give any specific instances of that?—That part of the memorandum is taken from the answers given by the organisers. That is an answer given by an organiser in the West on this point.
387. That would seem to indicate that unlicensed persons are carrying on the business of bookmaking?—I believe it is done in provision shops and so on.
388. It would be very important if we could get people who could give evidence before the Committee on that point, people who state of their own knowledge that such a thing is occurring?—I think the official in charge in the West could give evidence on that.
389. I see here from the memorandum that, for the four years your organisation has been in operation, you have got in £4,738,027?—Yes.
390. Does your association know what is the total amount that is bet annually in the Free State?—I have no idea.
391. The official returns state that the turnover in betting during 1928 was £6,000,000—that is the annual amount?— Yes, I suppose so.
392. Therefore, there is a considerable amount of loose money going about to be attracted into your association?—Yes. For the nine months of this financial year —that is, up to the end of December last, we got over £1,000,000, and we hope that at the end of the financial year, on the 31st March next, that we will have reached nearly £1,250,000 or £1,500,000.
393. *Deputy MacEntee.—Mr. McNeive made a very important statement. He said it was noted that, as the numbers of savings associations declined, the number of betting shops increased. We have seen the figures with regard to the number of betting saloons in each district, but we have no figures with regard to the number of savings associations in each district. Would it be possible for you to give us a memorandum showing the numbers of savings associations in several counties, towns and rural districts?—It would be rather difficult to give them by small districts, but we could certainly give them by counties.
394. It would be well also, I think, if you could give us not a detailed but a general history of the 1,648 savings associations founded in 1926, and the number of those which have been dissolved, suspended or amalgamated each year since?—I could get that information.
395. It is possible that the 390 savings associations formed in 1927 were sturdier than those formed in 1926, and that some of those which have collapsed since were formed in the early days of the movement?—I will get that information.
The witness retired.
Chairman.—That concludes the evidence. I desire, on behalf of the Committee, to thank the representatives of the Central Savings Committee for the valuable evidence they have given.
The Committee adjourned at 1.15 till Tuesday next at 11.30 a.m.
* 9 months to 31st December, 1928.
† Previously suspended associations now dissolved
* See Appendix I