MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Dé Máirt, 12adh Feabhra, 1929.
(Tuesday, 12th February, 1929.)
The Joint Committee met at 11.30 a.m.
SENATOR T. W. BENNETT in the Chair.
Mr. J. R. Clark (Secretary, Association of Chambers of Commerce of the Irish Free State) called and examined.
396. The following memorandum of evidence on behalf of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of the Irish Free State was submitted:—
The Association represents the Chambers of Commerce in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Galway, Sligo, Clonmel, Drogheda, Dundalk and Tralee; that is to say, all the Chambers of Commerce in the Saorstát.
I. No persons under 18 to be allowed on premises licensed for betting, or to make bets either for themselves or on behalf of others.
II. No women with children, whether in arms, perambulators, or on foot, to be allowed on licensed premises.
III. No lists of horses, lists of odds, lists of starting prices, lists of winners, sporting sheets, or literature, to be shown in, on, or adjacent to licensed premises.
IV. No calling of odds to be allowed in or adjacent to licensed premises.
V. No paying out on licensed premises until after 6 p.m.
VI. No loitering to be allowed in or adjacent to licensed premises. The police to have power to institute proceedings, if necessary, by arrest.
VII. Persons in receipt of Poor Law Relief to be debarred from betting on licensed premises: benefits to cease on proof that a betting transaction has been made.
VIII. The Licence Duty should be graduated according to the turnover.
Witness.—I would like to inform the Committee that the Executive Council of the Association will meet to-morrow morning. Any questions that members of the Committee put to me and that I am unable to answer, owing to the fact that such questions have not been discussed by the Association, can be placed before them and the Committee will receive an early reply.
397. Senator Parkinson.—As regards Paragraph 1 of your statement of evidence about no persons under eighteen being allowed on betting premises, how would the bookmaker be in a position to know whether a boy or girl would be under eighteen years? Would he be absolved from blame if, on being asked a question, the boy or girl said that he or she was over eighteen years of age?—Such age provisions exist in other laws, and I suppose the bookmaker would receive the same consideration as other people do.
Senator MacLoughlin.—I do not think it is that age in connection with other Acts.
Chairman.—I think it is sixteen years under the Licensing Act.
398. As regards Paragraph 3, would not that debar anybody from having a newspaper in his hand, or even a book, while on a licensed bookmaker’s premises?—I do not think so. I do not think any Court would take that view of the case. “… to be shown in, on, …” That obviously means to be shown by the owner of the premises.
399. With regard to the question of loitering, would not that be rather difficult to define when a man is standing anywhere near a licensed bookmaker’s premises?—This is a question that was given very grave consideration by the Council. Many members held it was rather drastic and might lead to the arrest of innocent people. On the whole, the Executive Council have confidence in the police, and they thought they should support the police recommendation where it was reasonable.
400. Paragraph 7 seems to be very easy of evasion. If a man is getting Poor Law relief, his wife, daughter or son might do the betting?—That is perfectly correct, but this paragraph was added because they thought it might act as a deterrent, especially in the small towns, where people in the receipt of Poor Law relief would be well known to the police and other people. It might not be so much use in Dublin.
401. Chairman.—It might prove very valuable?—It might act as a deterrent. In practice, it may not be found to work absolutely, but anything that would act as a deterrent in that case is advisable.
402. Senator Parkinson.—Is there any reason why you omitted to put in the dole?—What do you mean by the dole? There is no dole in Ireland.
403. There is unemployment benefit?— Well, unemployment benefit has been paid for by the employee and, under the present law, is a right. It may be argued that as the employer has paid one-third and the Government one-third, there might be some case for regulation, but under the present state of the law I do not think it could be sustained—the regulation of the disbursement of unemployment benefit any more than the regulation of the disbursement of a person’s wages. The regulation of the disbursement of a person’s wages might be desirable in some cases, but it would be impossible.
404. Senator Parkinson.—Unemployment benefit is merely an existence allowance when a man is out of work?—I am not competent to say that. It is insurance for which he has paid. The Council were agreed that it would be very desirable if the police recommendation could be carried out, but they do not think it could be sustained.
405. Deputy Doyle.—Have you any evidence that persons in receipt of Poor Law relief have been to any extent indulging in betting?—As an Association of Chambers of Commerce, we could hardly have evidence of that.
406. Did you give any consideration to the question of a change of the incidence of the taxation for betting—as to whether it would be advisable to put a larger tax on bookmakers and eliminate the tax on betting?—That is paragraph 8? The Council considered the matter, and some members thought £5,494 appeared to be a small amount to be collected for licences. That was the sum last year, I think. The Council thought there might be an increase, but, having regard to the possible effect on the small bookmaker and the consequent danger of renewing street betting, they decided that the question of the minimum might be left to this Committee, and they suggested that the duty might be graduated according to the turnover. That is, the duty should be calculated on the figures already in the possession of the Revenue Commissioners. The last year’s turnover on bets would supply the figures upon which the duty might be graduated. The Council did not consider that they were in a position to say what minimum licence duty would be the most advisable.
407. You say here, in paragraph 5: “No paying out on licensed premises until after 6 p.m.” It has been suggested here that the paying out on results should be deferred until the next day?— Where paying out takes place immediately after the receipt of the result of a race there is a temptation for the backers to remain on and place their winnings on other races, thereby wasting time. You must remember that the Association of Chambers of Commerce is chiefly concerned with the members’ belief that there is a waste of time by employees. Payment on the next day would still leave that position as it is, because the person would go on the next day, and he would still have the temptation when getting the results of his winnings to remain on and place the money on a horse running in a race that day, and wait for the result. But the payment after 6 p.m. would save the waste of time and lessen the temptation to put the money on another horse in a subsequent race.
408. Senator MacLoughlin.—Could you not put the money on another horse when drawing out the winnings?—Certainly.
409. Senator Parkinson.—Then I take it your suggestion is that there should be no payment except after six o’clock on the day on which the bet was made, or the day after?—After six o’clock on any day. The evidence is: No paying out on licensed premises until after six p.m.
410. Deputy MacEntee.—Irrespective of the day on which the winnings became due?—The day does not make any difference, because if the man goes in on the following day and is paid in the early part of the day, he is just in the same position as he would have been on the previous day.
411. Did your Council consider the closing down of betting houses from 1 o’clock in the day until 6 o’clock in the afternoon?—Proposals were made for all sorts of schemes for closing down the office during working hours, but they were held to be unworkable.
412. There is a closing down in the case of licensed premises for the sale of liquors in the middle of the day?—Yes, and it is a source of constant trouble.
413. In what way? You see, from the point of view of the law, it has not led to any increase in shebeening?—I do not know anything about that. We did not discuss the licensing Acts.
The witness withdrew.
Mr. Michael Byrne (Editor of “Sport”) called and examined.
414. The following memorandum of evidence was submitted by Mr. Michael Byrne, Editor of “Sport”:—
From a close investigation of the results which have followed the introduction of the Betting Act, 1926, I am of the opinion that in its present form it is unsatisfactory in many respects.
The principal causes for objection which may be advanced are:—
1.—The method by which revenue is derived from betting—Section 24 Finance Act, 1926, in conjunction with the Betting Act, 1926.
I recommend the abolition of the existing method of taxing betting—viz., an Excise duty of 2½ per cent., or 5 per cent. on each bet, and as an alternative suggest the issuing of a licence for each bookmaker at £300 per annum, plus a fee of £10 per annum for registration of premises.
There are about 500 bookmakers in Saorstát Eireann, and if they were licensed on this basis a sum of over £150,000 would be derived, free of all cost of collection. Such an annual licensing fee should not necessarily impose an unbearable burden on bookmakers, who, as commission agents, are in a position to charge their customers a percentage on business done on their behalf.
An arrangement might be come to whereby the Revenue authorities would accept payment of the licensing fee in monthly, quarterly, or half-yearly instalments, should the sum be thought too heavy to pay in one payment.
2.—The detrimental effect which the Betting tax on racecourse betting has had on Irish Racing, and, incidentally, on the Irish Breeding industry:—
This tax is in the main responsible for the critical condition of the majority of Irish race companies through loss of patronage. Racecourses find it impossible to continue their contribution to the £55,000 per annum demand from this source by the Revenue authorities. Attendances have dwindled to vanishing point, and stake values have dropped from £113,371 in 1926—the year in which the tax was introduced—to £86,744 in 1928.
3.—The opening of betting premises in unsuitable districts, the manner in which some of these establishments are conducted, and the class of customer they attract:
Neighbourhoods peopled by the working classes are over-supplied with facilities for betting in Dublin, and a large number of women are regular clients. It should be made illegal for any woman or child to resort to or make a bet with or at any bookmaker’s establishment where business is conducted mainly on a ready-money basis.
Certificates of personal fitness and suitability of premises should be issued by a District Justice, who would be empowered to hear such evidence as he deemed necessary; that is, in all applications, of course.
No list betting should be permitted— by list betting is meant the calling out of the runners by the bookmaker and the offering of odds in connection with a particular race to customers on the premises.
No winnings should be paid over until the day following the transaction or transactions.
Business conducted in the manner indicated is conducive to a breach of Section 8 (1) Betting Act, 1926, that is, the loitering, and it should be to the advantage of the bookmaker to see that the law in this respect is strictly adhered to.
In their own interests I suggest that proprietors of such establishments should base their conduct on the following injunction to their customers:—
“Get in, get on, get out.”
I am strongly opposed to any curtailment of the hours during which business may be carried on, or the suppression of information relating to the day’s racing. The closing of the offices during the hours when racing was in progress would only lead to betting, in my opinion, being carried on outside in an illegal manner. The suggestion that newspapers containing racing information should not be displayed or provided is absurd, I suggest, inasmuch as everybody is at liberty to carry newspapers on their person. The State has sanctioned cash betting, and should not be asked to deny licence-holders reasonable facilities.
4.—The drastic powers given to Revenue authorities under the Betting Act, Section 2 and Section 19. The former says that every person who “acts as a bookmaker” shall be liable on summary conviction to an Excise penalty of five hundred pounds. This is rather a technical point. At race meetings a common practice amongst race-goers is to bet amongst themselves. Thus “A” may have obtained much larger odds about a horse than “B” can secure subsequently. In such circumstances “A” might allow “B” a share of his (“A’s” bet) at a shorter rate of odds than he (“A”) took. He would be clearly acting as a bookmaker, innocently, no doubt, but involving himself in serious consequences.
According to Section 19, any officer of Customs and Excise possessed of a suspicious turn of mind is empowered to enter the home of any private citizen to search and investigate at any hour of the day or night, on the plea that he suspects that the business of bookmaking is carried on therein.
Refusal to facilitate entails a penalty of twenty pounds or summary conviction.
5.—The wholly iniquitous character of the penalties for breach of Section 24, Finance Act, 1926, and the drastic powers accorded to the Revenue authorities for their enforcement.
For the smallest offence against this section every person shall be liable on summary conviction to an Excise penalty of five hundred pounds. That is as regards the evasion of tax.
In the majority of cases the offender is not in a position to pay that sum. The Revenue authorities can then imprison him and keep him in prison for as long a period as they may think fit.
I recommend that the section be amended in such fashion as shall empower a District Justice to deal with each charge on its merits; impose such penalties, as he may think fit and exercise his discretion in the case of first offenders.
6.—I favour the suggestion that cash bets should be recoverable in law.
415. Chairman.—Do I understand you are Editor of “Sport”?—Yes.
416. And you have been connected with racing for a great number of years?—Yes, I have had a good deal of experience of racing.
417. With regard to the last paragraph in your memorandum, that cash bets should be recoverable by law, do you mean that the bookmaker would be liable if he did not pay?—Yes; at the present time if the backer is not paid by the bookmaker, there is no law to make the man who accepts that money discharge his liabilities. Of course, the backer can report the matter, but he has no remedy in law. The bookmaker can return the stakes, and that gets him out of any breach of the law. If he returns the stakes he is not a welsher.
418. Senator Parkinson.—In that case you would have to repeal the Gaming Act?—I take it you would, but I would be glad to consider any alternative.
419. Would it not be better if the bookmaker forfeited his licence if it were proved that he had defaulted?—Yes, I should think that penalty would be sufficiently drastic.
420. In the first paragraph of your memorandum you advocate the re-placing of a tax on the turnover—by taxing the bookmaker. Do you think that there is any probability that you would get 500 bookmakers who would be able or willing to pay £300 a year plus £10 for registration of premises?—Well, the way I regard it is this—the bookmaker who cannot afford to pay £300 a year for his privileges would, I suggest, be scarcely a desirable person to whom a licence should be granted. He could scarcely be considered a desirable person to be allowed to carry on bookmaking. In return for this payment of £300 a year, I suggest that he be allowed to bet in cash in his premises, at race meetings, greyhound racing, or at any sporting event of a speculative nature.
421. On that question of coursing, these meetings are held on private grounds. Racecourses, too, are the private property of the shareholders or owners, and the State could hardly insist on the right of the bookmaker to bet at these private races?—I am only making this suggestion in reference to existing conditions. My chief objection to the present system of taxation is the burden which the backers have to bear.
422. I think that the Revenue returns show that there was a sum of £200,000 from this tax each year since the Act has been in operation; is not that so?—Yes.
423. And it was also stated in evidence that between 90 per cent. and 95 per cent. of that money was on small bets?—Yes, and for that reason, and from these figures, it is quite evident that the incidence of the tax falls on those least able to afford the payment.
424. So that if this proposal of yours was accepted you think that the vast majority of the people who make small bets would be relieved of the tax?—Yes, relieved of the payment of the tax.
425. And that would not place an undue burden on the bookmakers?—Not on a bookmaker who wants to carry on as a public bookmaker who bets with the public in cash. May I point out that he has a way of safeguarding himself, as he is in a position to charge a commission on accounts to his clients—to recover some of the money he will have to pass, anyway.
426. If he wanted to charge a commission, you could not very well differentiate by law and make him charge the big backer and let off the small backer?—It would not be a question of law as to whether he should charge at all. I am merely pointing out that he is in a position to do so if he wishes.
427. You would leave the matter to himself?—Certainly.
428. Do you not think that a licence duty of £300 would tend to create a monopoly in the profession?—I would not like to think that it would. I would not like that any bookmaker of integrity or stability should be debarred from carrying on.
429. Chairman.—According to a list I have before me, outside Dublin city there were only 300 bookmakers apparently registered in Ireland during the last year. There were 517 altogether, of whom 220 were in Dublin city. Do you think you will get 300 out of 517 in a financial position to pay £300 down and still carry on betting?—It is a difficult question to answer.
430. One would think that some of these bookmakers have not a big capital?—The question arises there: What is a bookmaker’s capital? At present, when the licence is granted, there seems to be no enquiry made as to the stability of the applicant or what his capital is.
431. Senator MacLoughlin.—Do you think there should be?—I do.
432. Chairman.—Some witnesses were asked whether they would recommend seeking a guarantee from any person taking out a licence that he could reasonably pay—from a bank or otherwise—would you be in favour of that?—I think there should be some reference from some association—at least that when a bookmaker applies for a licence the association of which he is a member should give, perhaps not a guarantee, but some recommendation as to his financial stability and whether he is a desirable person.
433. You would not like to hazard an opinion as to whether 300 bookmakers would be in a position to pay a licence of £300?—I am not in a position to answer that. My chief plea in connection with this is, that it relieves them from the responsibility of being unpaid tax collectors, and the dire consequences which may result, and it would also remove an unbearable burden from the backer in the payment of the tax.
434. Senator Parkinson.—If it were found in practice that £300 was more than the bookmakers could pay, would it meet your views if it were reduced to £200?—It would. I am merely against the principle of the present system.
435. As it would get rid of the cost of collection and supervision, and also the trouble in connection with evasion, from the Revenue point of view it might be better than the tax levied at present?— I agree. I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not wish to embarrass any man of honesty and integrity who wants to get a living at bookmaking. I take it the majority of them are very decent men, though circumstances may arise occasionally as a result of which they are unable to meet their liabilities just the same as their clients. It is the principle I think that is wrong at present, particularly from the point of view of the small backer, who is carrying too big a burden under the Act in the tax—levied on bets.
436. Deputy Doyle.—Have you any opinion to offer as to the number of licences granted—would you suggest limiting the number?—I should say that the present number is quite sufficient, and I would not increase it. I think there are plenty of bookmakers and bookmakers’ premises at present—in some cases too many.
437. Senator Parkinson.—In number 2 you give evidence in figures as to the cost of the tax on the racecourse as distinct from the tax levied in the betting office. I suppose you have read the Government’s Report on the cost of racing from the owners’ point of view?— I have.
438. You say that since 1926, when the tax was introduced, stake values have dropped from £113,371 to £86,744 in 1928 —practically coinciding with the amount of the tax?—Yes.
439. In your opinion is this mainly due to the betting tax?—Mainly due—I am convinced of that.
440. Would you like to give any evidence as to the way the tax is levied in England and here and the rate in each case?—Yes. In Ireland, on racecourse betting, the backer is charged 2½ per cent. on the amount which he would receive back on credit bets, or which he actually received back—that is, his stake and winnings. He is charged 2½ per cent. on the total.
441. On every bet?—On every winning bet.
442. What is it in England?—In England the backer pays 1 per cent. on his net winnings.
443. By net winnings I assume you mean the weekly or daily account?—Yes.
444. Chairman.—In cash bets, what happens?—I understand that at the present moment it is being changed, but I understand the same system will obtain.
445. The backer only pays 1 per cent?— Yes on the total winnings—the net winnings.
446. That means that his stake is not included?—Yes. If he has a bet of £5 to £1 he pays a tax of 1 per cent. on the £5. Here he pays a tax of 2½ per cent. on the £6.
447. Senator Parkinson.—That is 150 per cent. more for a start off on the rate of tax? How much would it be on the total tax as levied here as compared with England?—It would depend on the rate of the odds. If you had a bet of an even pound at the present rate you would pay tax on £2—that would be a shilling for a bet of £1. If you got 2 to 1 you would pay on £3. It would be progressive.
Chairman.—It would be progressive, which is a very shady state of affairs.
448. Senator Parkinson.—Therefore the backer here is in a very much worse position than in England?—Yes.
449. Is that due to the Government?— I could not answer that.
450. Does not common sense tell you that the Act does not provide as to how the tax is to be levied? Apparently the backers were never consulted, and it is really the bookmakers who have arranged this method of taxing?—Undoubtedly. They are responsible for the collection and payment of the tax on the money staked.
451. Chairman.—Do I understand that there is this difference between the taxation in Ireland and in England—In Ireland the stake is taxed; in England only the winnings are taxed?—The law in England is that there is a 1 per cent. tax on all stakes. In Ireland the law is that there is 2½ per cent. on all stakes. In each case the bookmaker is responsible for the collection and payment of that duty. The difference is in the method adopted by the bookmakers in Ireland and the bookmakers in England.
Senator Parkinson.—In England they levy the tax on the net winnings.
452. Chairman.—That is an arrangement made by the bookmakers which they thought was equitable?—The decision come to by the bookmakers in Ireland and the bookmakers in England—a protective method if you like on their part. That is why I suggest in the case of the licence duty that they should devise some means of protecting themselves and making the burden lighter and also lighter for the public.
453. Senator Parkinson.—Is not the real meaning of the incidence of the tax as arranged for Irish racing that the backer in all cases pays all the tax?— That might be claimed. The answer to that by the bookmaker would be: “We do not charge on losing bets,” but if you analyse the matter from the angle from which you view it, the backer in every instance supplies the means of paying the tax. That is that the bookmaker is not asked to pay any tax until he receives the money to do so, whether winning or losing from his client.
454. Senator MacLoughlin.—Supposing this method of making the bookmaker pay £200 or £300 was adopted, would you be in favour of making a provision whereby he could only charge a certain percentage on the winnings to the backer?—No. I would make no provision. They would be all on level terms, and it would be up to him to protect himself by any means he wished within the law. I should say that competition would grow keener, and any bookmaker who would seek to recover the tax or make any profit on it would suffer in business in comparison with men who gave better terms. At present they all adopt the one system.
455. You know that it was the custom with some bookmakers before the Act was passed at all to charge a commission on running accounts?—Yes. That is my point, they could seek relief if they wished if they have to pay more for a licence.
456. If there were no betting tax levied at the Irish racecourses, would that help to bring people back to races and give a better chance of providing increased stakes?—I should think it would be a great help and inducement. I would submit that one of the main causes for the falling off in attendance is that the former patron of racing has found himself in such a financial position from having to pay this heavy tax that he has not money left to go racing. It is well known in racing circles in connection with men who bet in large sums and who keep an account of their betting transactions during the year, that while they may find that there is a slight balance in their favour or in favour of the bookmaker at the end of the year, the amount of the tax that they are called upon to pay renders it impossible for them to continue as backers. I might say that the chief inducement to people who go racing is betting. There is no use closing one’s eyes to that. If you make betting impossible, you kill racing by killing the attendance.
457. Can you explain how far that £86,000 in 1928 would go towards defraying the cost of the owners of race-horses? —I should think the owners would pay 50 per cent. of it.
458. You mean that the owners have subscribed 50 per cent. of the £86,000?— Yes.
459. That reduces the total amount, roughly, for the owners to £43,000?—Yes, of the total amount of the stakes provided by the racing authorities.
460. How many horses would you say, in round figures, are in training at present?—Over one thousand, I should say.
That works out to train these thousand horses to enter for any race and to pay for jockey, transport, and all the other incidental expenses, at an average of £43 per horse per year? It was stated in a governmental report on racing that it cost £220 a year to keep, train and run a horse. That means the 600 odd owners in the country have to pay a very large sum to keep the business going?—Yes.
461. There are some big losses?—There are some big losses to the owners. Owners no doubt will admit that without public patronage they cannot carry on, nor can the breeders.
462. Owners are not in a position to put up any more in stakes. They can only do it with what they get from the public?— That is so. My desire is to win back the public to the racecourses. In that way everyone will benefit—owners, breeders, and race-goers generally.
463. Could you attribute any other reason than those you have stated for the loss of patronage as regards Irish race meetings?—Yes, the high cost of race-going. The high charges cannot be attributed entirely to the executives in existing circumstances. They are not in a position to make any big reduction to the race-going public, as they are not in a flourishing condition. They would, no doubt, wish to be able to do so, but they must get the public back first.
464. Was there not a notable decrease in the attendance at Irish race meetings before the passage of the Betting Act?— Not nearly so much as since. I think, if you examine it, you will find that the collapse dates from the coming into operation of the Betting Act.
465. Senator MacLoughlin.—Your idea is to abolish the tax on racecourse betting and to have no tax on starting price betting in offices?—I certainly think that, at all costs, course betting should be tax free in every shape and form, in order that those running race meetings may make them more attractive to the public by means of cheaper admission fees, and so get back the old crowds. You will find, Senator, that, in 1926, 3,900 was the average daily attendance at one meeting in Dublin. In 1927, it went down to 2,420.
466. You have not the figures before those dates?—That is for one meeting; but I think an examination will show the attendances have been on the down grade for a couple of years. Of course there was a boom period after the war, when there was a totally false atmosphere of prosperity in connection with racing and other industries. When we get back to normal times and normal conditions the effect would not be noticeable in the first month or in the first year.
467. Could you suggest any reason for the preference for English racing?—The amount of money taken in starting prices for Irish race meetings has been negligible for a long number of years. Bookmakers are not enamoured of starting price bets for Irish meetings. It is with extreme difficulty one can place a bet on a horse running in Ireland. In the majority of cases it cannot be done. It is more or less of a compliment to get the money on in the case of an Irish meeting. Personally I would prefer to see the backers on the course.
468. There has been general depression over the whole thing where Irish racing is concerned?—I attribute it to the bleeding of racecourses by taxation.
469. Chairman.—Did it ever strike you to look at it from this angle: that there must be a certain number of race-goers who went to a race meeting for the pure love of the day’s outing?—I believe there has been an uncertain number. As a general rule, people going to a race meeting go primarily for the pleasure of the proceedings, but they want to have an interest, and they do have a practical interest, in the proceedings.
470. I remember the time when a man with a pound could go to a race meeting, go into the stand, have his lunch, and a drink if he liked it, for a very few shillings. Now a man who has only a pound will hardly go to race meetings?—No, he would not even be able to get in.
471. So that it makes a difference as regards the possibility of the average man attending?—Exactly, and a man might not like to go without bringing some member of his family with him.
472. Have you any suggestion to make as to how these good times could be brought back so as to have cheap stands, cheap lunch and cheap transport coming and going to racing?—That would be a rather tall order. I would begin by suggesting the abolition of the racecourse betting tax. There is £55,000 a year going out of the Irish racecourses and contributed in the main by patrons. That does not come back to racing again. If that came back in some shape or form, say in stakes, a share of it would go back to the public in the shape of reduced entrance fees.
473. Is not the country too small to have so many competing race meetings all with large staffs? Do you not think if there was a co-operative track or a group all working together, it would eliminate a great deal of unnecessary expense the public have to carry at the moment in the shape of high entrance fees?—I think that would have to be gone into closely. Consideration would have to be given to the existence of what might be termed the small or provincial meetings. If they were threatened with extinction, I would be against that, for I hold rather strong views about provincial meetings, which I regard as the backbone of racing in Ireland. I would not be in favour of any co-operation that might tend to their elimination or render it impossible for them to compete on level terms with the larger executives working on the ring or co-operative system. I should say that if that system of co-operation and amalgamation would prove satisfactory, from an economic point of view, for the larger meetings, an assurance should be given that the others would be safeguarded, if necessary, in the form of a subsidy. I would heartily support anything that would tend to cheapen and develop racing.
474. There are two countries in the world to-day—New Zealand and France— where all racecourses are non-proprietory. In New Zealand, with a population of 1,300,000, the annual amount in stakes is £800,000. That compares very unfavourably with the £86,000 in Ireland?—I agree.
475. In France (outside of Paris), where they have 260 days’ racing, the smallest race is worth £80. The cost to the owner is nil, and the cost of getting into the grand stand is 3/4, which contrasts rather favourably with the rates in Ireland and the amount of the stakes?— Yes, all this tends to centralising the meetings.
476. No, decentralisation. It is only centralising the executive costs?—I do not think you can compare France and Ireland. You have a large floating population in France. In Ireland we have a very small body of regular race-goers. I would support any scheme that would revive the industry.
477. Chairman.—You would recommend, with others, that a District Justice should be the person to issue a licence?—Yes.
478. It has been recommended here that people in the locality should be able to oppose the granting of licences?—If they could show cause. I think betting by women is one of the great evils of the ready-money betting system.
479. You think women and children should not be allowed into those betting premises?—Yes, where betting is conducted mainly on cash lines. In a great number of the premises betting is carried on for the purpose of attracting crowds. I would not allow women into these premises for the purpose of betting, but I would not prevent them from calling for the purpose of making adjustments at offices which are recognised credit betting premises.
480. Senator MacLoughlin.—It has been suggested that since the legalisation of betting there has been a great increase in betting. Is that your experience?— No, I believe there has been about the same amount of betting as previous to the Act. Those who want to bet will bet.
481. You think if betting offices were suppressed people would find the means of having their bets in an illegal way?—I have not the slightest doubt about it.
482. Deputy Doyle.—Have you any suggestion to make as to there being a limit to a wager?—It is a rather difficult point, but I think the minimum should be a shilling.
483. A suggestion has been made for the abolition of the sixpenny bet?—I would abolish the sixpenny bet. I would have it from a shilling upwards. To make it larger than a shilling and to say that a man must not bet in sums smaller than half-a-crown, for instance, would encourage him to invest more money than he could afford, and it would be an inducement to him to spend more money. I see no reason why the working classes, say, should not be allowed to indulge in their relaxation. It may be foolish from a certain point of view, but if they want it, they are entitled to it.
484. You consider that a shilling is low enough?—I do. Anything less would be conducive to people under age to go into betting.
485. We had evidence the last day of people stealing eggs to bet?—I think a false atmosphere has been brought about by the antipathy to cash betting. These statements should be seriously investigated. It is unfair to racing and to betting generally that such an atmosphere of vice should be associated with betting. One would think that outside and inside betting offices there are little children holding up sixpences in their hands to be robbed. That is contrary to what I found. There may be abuses, if you like, in the case of people hanging around, but I think a very wrong impression has been given, no doubt with the best of intentions. Isolated cases may happen, as you will find everywhere. Murder cases and assaults occur, and you hear people saying, “I saw it done at the pictures,” but that does not mean that the picture houses should be all closed up.
486. According to Government returns, there were £4,000,000 bet in the offices last year?—That may suggest to you that there was a capital of £4,000,000 for betting. I think that needs analysing. It means no such thing. To suggest that there were £4,000,000 of capital invested in betting is quite wrong. £4,000,000 might be derived from a comparatively small beginning. Remember, if you start at a race meeting and have 5/- or £1 on the first winner, it is quite possible that before the fourth race you will be betting in twenty pounds on your winnings. That does not go away from the fact that your original capital was 5/-. There again, I think, an unfair atmosphere to racing is created by giving bald figures without an explanation, such as that the citizens in this State are thriftless enough to spend £4,000,000 of capital —that they do not possess, of course—on betting.
487. Chairman.—It is a false figure?— Yes, a fictitious one; it does not exist. I doubt at the moment if there is £200,000 in Irish racing for betting purposes alone.
488. The £200,000 used up in the betting tax has gone?—It does not prove that £4,000,000 of capital were invested.
489. During each of the two years the betting tax was in operation, the people have been able to pay in tax £200,000?— The public have paid, but I do not admit that they have been able to do it.
490. How have they gone on?—They are earning money.
491. That is their capital?—It is not; I deny that it is their capital. It is this way: it is as much their capital as it is in the case of a racecourse transaction where a man may find himself betting in £20 or £10 at the end of a race. The same applies to the starting price method.
492. It certainly must be real money?— It starts with real money, and assumes a fictitious total at the end of a day or a year. The fact is, that there is £55,000 going out of Irish racing that is not coming back.
493. Chairman.—No winnings should be paid until the day following the transaction. You object to winnings being paid at 6 o’clock?—Yes, for these reasons: I maintain that by doing that you are bringing back the crowd again after the day’s work to the betting offices. Surely they might be in better places, in their homes or other places. To my mind the idea should be, “Get in, get on, get out and go about your business,” and the business of the ordinary man after 6 o’clock is not in the betting offices, but in his home or at whatever amusement he may seek.
494. Take the next paragraph, with regard to the drastic powers given to Revenue authorities under the Betting Act?—That is rather a technical point, and perhaps could only be appreciated by those closely associated with the racecourse. Suppose, for the moment, one of my friends and myself were at a race meeting and I ask my friend what a certain price was, and he said it is only 4 to 1, but I got 10 to 1, and I will give you 8 to 1.
495. He is technically breaking the law? —Yes.
496. That ought to be removed?—Yes. Some over-eager official might show how vigilant he was. A man does not want to break the law, and it could be pointed out to him.
497. Technically he would be guilty?— Yes.
498. Take paragraph No. 5?—The main point of paragraph 5 is that there ought to be, to my mind, a clause for first offenders. No doubt, the bookmakers will be able to answer this better themselves. These men have to collect enormous sums and have to deal with a prodigious number of documents, and all that sort of thing, so that accidents will happen or the employees will deliberately break the law for which the employer is responsible. That means the elimination of the man.
499. It was suggested to us that it was in the power of the Revenue authorities to imprison a man for ever, and that that ought not to be allowed?—No.
500. That is unfair?—Yes, absolutely unfair. I suggest a magistrate should deal with such an offence as he would deal with any ordinary offence, and let the punishment fit the crime. Here the penalty is prejudged before a word of evidence is given.
501. Deputy Doyle.—I think you did well by bringing this point out. I know of cases where men are victimised and fined £500 who are not in a position to pay it. I think something more definite would have to be provided to prevent men going into business who are not able to pay?—I have already made the suggestion that their qualifications or financial stability should be inquired into before a licence is given.
502. That is my point, but I doubt very much whether a District Justice will be able to form any discretion as to whether the man is capable or not?—Of paying the fine?
503. Yes, in some cases?—As at present in the existing law?
504. Yes?—You might take it that in the majority of cases a £500 fine would be a serious blow to a man’s future.
505. I would be glad to have something done?—Yes.
506. Senator MacLoughlin.—I think a witness from the Revenue Commissioners recommended that himself. Did not Mr. Randall say something about that?—If a magistrate is satisfied that there has been constant and deliberate evasion of duty, he has only to refuse him his licence, but why subject him to criminal punishment?
507. Chairman.—I think what Mr. Randall requires is the penalties kept as they are?—I think it is a savage law.
508. Senator MacLoughlin.—I think Mr. Randall referred to the absurdity of a man being kept in for an indefinite period.
509. Chairman.—I think that was the District Justice?—It leaves the District Justice no option to exercise discretion as to the enormity of the crime or the offence proved. I presume that in every criminal offence there is a first offender’s act brought to bear. It is possible for a man to subscribe a fortune annually to the State, and for a sum amounting to shillings or pounds, he may find himself in the position of being exterminated financially and morally.
510. This is Mr. Cussen’s evidence:—
And it is, in my opinion, founded on what I have observed in our Court, a very grave reflection on our legal system, that in default of payment by a defendant, who obviously cannot pay, we should be obliged to sign warrants committing the person—man or woman (regardless of age if over 16)—to prison, not for a definite period, but during the will of the Revenue Commissioners —that is, if they so will, for life?—
That is what the bookmakers get for collecting the tax free for the Government.
511. You agree that the bookmaker has a grievance?—Yes, a shocking one. His Honor did not point out that there was not a discretion for a first offender.
512. You think a discretion should be given?—Undoubtedly, in view of the cases being so intricate. There may be omissions. The thing is altogether too drastic.
513. Take your last recommendation?— That is dealt with by the withdrawal of a licence.
The Committee adjourned at 1.10 p.m.