Committee Reports::Final Report - Betting Act 1926, and the Law relating to the Business of Bookmaking::13 March, 1929::MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA / Minutes of Evidence


(Minutes of Evidence)

Dé Céadaoin, 13adh Márta, 1929.

(Wednesday, 13th March, 1929.)

The Joint Committee met at 11.30 a.m.

Members Present:





P. S. Doyle.


J. X. Murphy.



P. W. Shaw.




Capt. Gerald Martin (Secretary, Bloodstock Breeders’ Association of Ireland) called and examined.

770. Captain Gerald Martin, Secretary, submitted the following memo, of evidence on behalf of the Bloodstock Breeders’ Association of Ireland:—

(a) The taxation on betting has undoubtedly affected the attendance at racecourses, and has made it difficult or impossible for the racecourse executives to offer proper stakes.

(b) The facilities in the betting shops have further reduced the attendances on the courses.

(c) All interested in racing and breeding agree that the imposition of the tax on betting will hurt breeding because of the decline in racing.

(d) If racing in Ireland is exterminated or greatly reduced, horse breeding must suffer, and the export trade of horses will disappear.

(e) This Government wish to foster any real industry, and particularly any trade which is introducing capital to the country.

(f) Stud farms represent in capital value of land and animals several millions of pounds.

Stud farms have 2,000 thoroughbred brood mares, value, say, one million pounds, and produce, say, one thousand yearlings each year, which realise half a million a year.

(g) Horses-in-training number 1,400, value, say, £560,000. The amount spent in forage and labour is at least £400,000 per annum.

(h) At the Doncaster Sales alone 200 Irish yearlings realise roughly a quarter of a million per annum.

(i) The yearlings sold each year at the Dublin August Sales, principally for export, realise £150,000 per annum.

(j) The sales of mares, yearlings and foals at the Newmarket Sales average £200,000 per annum.

(k) The private sales of thoroughbreds which can be traced amount to almost half a million pounds.

(l) It is safe to estimate the export of horses at one and a half million per annum.

(m) It is a continually growing trade, and the fame of Ireland for breed of horses is becoming more and more generally known.

(n) The breeders of Ireland use the racecourse as the shop-window in which to display their wares.

(o) It is by their performances on the racecourse that their merits can be proved.

(p) Practically every country has schemes for encouragement of breeders; France, Germany, New Zealand take a portion of the amount realised on the racecourse to add to the stakes for which breeders contest.

(q) In Ireland and England alone has it been possible to continue to improve the breed of animal and the breeding industry without Government aid.

(r) Breeding cannot go on without racing.

(s) Racing cannot go on under present conditions.


771. You represent the Bloodstock Breeders’ Association, not the owners and trainers?—Yes. The Association is confined to the breeding industry only, and has nothing to do with race courses or owners. From the breeders’ point of view, racing is an absolutely essential part of the industry. As everybody knows, once you get outside the cities and towns, practically every individual is a breeder. The capital value of stud farms, in land and animals, amounts to several million pounds. It is therefore one of the biggest industries in the country, and is annually introducing new capital. As the Government have expressed a desire to foster any real industry, this Association wishes to express the view that everything possible should be done, as is done in every country except Great Britain and Ireland, by the Government to foster the breeding of thoroughbred stock. In order to show the size of the industry, I may quote a few rough figures of the capital that is involved at present and the export trade which takes place annually. There are roughly 2,000 mares of a value of £1,000,000. It is, of course, impossible to trace all the breeders in the country, but that is the number which can be traced definitely. They produce, say, 1,000 yearlings per annum, which realise about £500,000. There are 1,400 horses in training, and their total value would be about £560,000. The expenditure on the upkeep of these, on a conservative estimate, would be about £400,000 per year on labour and forage. As regards the export trade, at the Doncaster Sales every year about 200 Irish yearlings are sold, realising roughly £250,000. At the Dublin August Sales, yearlings to the value of about £150,000 are sold annually, and a very large percentage of these are for export. At the Newmarket Sales of mares, yearlings and foals, an average of £200,000 is realised annually. Private sales which can be traced amount to about £500,000, but there must be many others. The export trade, therefore, could be put roughly at £1,500,000 per annum.

772. Suppose the yearlings sold at Doncaster were sold in Ireland, what would you think they would fetch?—They would probably fetch the same amount after two years’ training. Perhaps that is hardly a correct answer. They would never fetch that price, because Doncaster is an abnormal market. They should fetch on an average £2,000 each. The trade has been growing, and the fame of Irish bloodstock is spreading more and more throughout the world. The demand this year for horses in training during the latter end of the season has been in excess of any other year. The figures given show roughly the capital sunk and the export trade in connection with the breeding industry. Every individual connected with the industry is convinced that without racing, in fact without an improvement on the present conditions of racing, this big industry will be severely handicapped.

Deputy Shaw.

773. When I was opposing the Betting Tax in the Dáil, one of the principal points put to me was to explain how the breeding industry was affected by racing, and how they were both dependant upon one another. That is a matter I should like to have developed, because it was difficult to explain. A large number of persons were not satisfied that the breeding industry could not be as successful if racing were abolished or reduced?—I think the easiest way to answer that is this: If an individual, say, purchased 100 10/- shares in a new Marconi Company, he would like to see that company being developed. It is exactly the same with horse-breeding. If you are selling animals without a place to develop them, their value will immediately drop. The individual who invested in Marconis, if there were no development, would not get much return for his money. It would be the same if an individual bought a yearling and could not race it—he would not be very likely to get much return from it.

774. You are satisfied that if racing were abolished or considerably reduced it would seriously affect the breeding industry, which is the third biggest asset of this State?—It would most certainly.

775. Senator Bennett.—Do you consider that betting is a necessary concomitant of racing?—I think most certainly it is.

Deputy Cooper.

776. As to paragraph (a) in your statement, what other factors affected the attendance at racecourses?—There are numerous other factors. One was the boom years, when there was plenty of money flying about. That has now ceased, and, of course, racing has been and is a very expensive entertainment, with the Amusement Tax, etc.

777. There was in fact a decline in the attendance at racecourses before 1926, when the Betting Tax was introduced?— Yes. That was accounted for chiefly by the fact that all classes were fairly prosperous after the war.

778. Your Association wish to make the point that the taxation on betting has been an additional factor?—Yes. It is not the main factor, but it is an additional factor—one amongst many.

779. Do you think it would be such a serious factor if the betting shops had not been established?—No. I consider that the old method whereby there was street betting without legal authority was even better than the present one.

780. From the point of view of racing? —Yes, and attendance at racecourses.

Senator MacLoughlin.

781. Do you mean to say that it would be better to drive betting again into the underground channels in which it was conducted before?—No. I mean if it had not been legalised, to prevent any betting whatsoever in the cities and towns, that the attendance at race meetings would have benefited.

782. Do you not think that the betting shops in the cities and towns are concerned chiefly with cross-Channel racing, and that there is a very small volume of business done in connection with Irish racing—that is the evidence which was given here?—I admit that; but, at the same time, I think that owing to the large number of people who have facilities provided for them in the betting shops to bet on cross-Channel races, they are prevented possibly from going two or three times a year to race meetings.

Deputy Cooper.

783. Do you think any considerable proportion of people who go into these betting shops and put on a shilling or half-a-crown on a horse could afford the time to go to race meetings?—I think that on Saturday afternoons and on Bank Holidays they could. If it was not so customary for them to bet every day of their lives, when they get off on a Saturday afternoon or a Bank Holiday they would probably attend a race meeting.

784. We had a suggestion made to us by the Commissioner of the Gárda Síochána that betting shops should be closed for two hours in the afternoon—would that help racing?—It would help considerably.

Deputy Shaw.

785. Do you not consider that it would mean that there would be quite as much betting, but that no tax would be paid, because it would simply resurrect street betting, as in the past?—I think that with proper organisation by the police there should be no trouble in putting down street betting. I am sure it goes on now just the same—that any man who cannot go into a betting shop has no difficulty in spending his wages on betting.

Senator MacLoughlin.

786. Do you think that any police organisation could stamp out street betting —they are not able to do it in England, and how do you suggest it could be done here?—If there was a law against it I think it could be done.

787. There is a law against it, and there is a law in Great Britain against it?— Before the Betting Tax came in there was no law against street betting.

Senator MacLoughlin.—Certainly there was.

Deputy Shaw.

788. Would you consider that the extraction of £230,000 from the people who bet is the cause of the present serious financial position of bookmakers, backers, owners, and everybody connected with racing?—I think it is one of the causes.

789. One of the principal causes?—One of the principal causes.

790. Do you consider that the extraction of £230,000 per annum from the people who are in the habit of going to races is the principal cause of the small attendance?—It is one of the causes. I would not put it down as the principal cause. It is one of the many causes responsible for the deterioration of racing in this country.

Deputy Doyle.

791. Would it be possible for you to show other causes for the deterioration in Irish racing, both prior to and after the Betting Act?—The Entertainment Tax was one. As I said before, through lack of money in the country people cannot afford to go racing. A large number of people who heretofore could afford to go racing two or three days a week have now got to attend to business.

792. Were not these results evident before the Betting Act came into operation? —I do not think so. Racing has been on the decline gradually since 1922. One cause after another has brought the decline down to its present state.

793. Senator MacLoughlin.—Apart from your suggestion to do away with the betting shops and to take the tax off betting, have you any other suggestion that would improve racing?—Of course, there is the question of the introduction of the Tote. At the Commission set up by the Finance Minister Mr. Randall expressed our view that the Tote should be established forthwith.

794. Deputy Murphy.—You explained that a quarter of a million was realised from the sale of Irish yearlings at Doncaster?—Yes.

795. They are all the progeny of Irish sires?—They are all the progeny of Irish mares and chiefly of Irish sires.

796. I thought most of these were sent to fashionable sires?—Of course, the National Stud have Diligence and Silva. Many mares go over to the other side, but of course the foals belong to the country where they are dropped.

797. Deputy Shaw.—Am I correct in saying that Ireland is considered to be the best and most suitable for the successful breeding of thoroughbred horses? —There is no other country in the world like it. I do not say that because I am an Irishman. Everybody outside Ireland will tell you the same thing. If you look at the results of the racing at Cheltenham yesterday you will see where in one race Irish horses were first, second and third, and that the majority of the horses were Irish.

Senator Bennett.

798. In the statement of horses exported to foreign countries, apparently our horses are exported as English?—That is correct.

799. Has that a disadvantageous effect on breeding in Ireland, and ought it to be changed?—The Association has been endeavouring for the past two years to start a publicity campaign to advertise the performances of Irish-bred stock. The question of starting a stud book here is an intricate and delicate one to touch on. If Government assistance could be given through their Consuls and other means to broadcast the performances of Irish-bred stock, it would help the industry. There is no doubt that the reports from India and America do not give us a fair share of the honours achieved by Irish-bred horses, because they are always in the English stud book, and they are described as English.

800. Deputy Murphy.—If racing stopped altogether in Ireland, would breeding automatically stop?—Breeding would be reduced by 75 per cent. The only chance you would have would be to take the horses over to England, or somewhere where racing was continued. You must have racing to make breeding a success.

801. Chairman.—Racing is really the advertisement for the breeder?—It is the showground for the breeder.

802. Deputy Murphy.—The yearlings that are sold at Doncaster really do not race in Ireland?—Some of them come back here. When an animal races and wins, its half brother or full brother on the following year will fetch a price.

803. Deputy Shaw.—There is enormous employment given in connection with the breeding studs throughout the country in getting these yearlings that are sent to Doncaster up to maturity?—That expense would be incurred in any case. Of course, if racing was in a better condition it would increase that expenditure, because there would be more people racing in the country. I expect the owners will give full details as to how difficult it is for them to make things pay now.

804. Senator Bennett.—Do you take any cognisance in your statement of the value of steeplechasing throughout the country?—We do, as far as possible. It is difficult to get at the figure realised from private sales. In every country, except Ireland and England, the breeding industry is assisted by the Government. The German Government send representatives to the Newmarket Sales. They buy up the best of our stock to assist their industry. The same thing applies to New Zealand.

805. Deputy Shaw.—Am I correct in saying that it is very important that the small country meetings should be encouraged in order to give an opportunity of training the young steeplechasers, which are one of the classes of horses that have brought the highest tribute to this country? I could give the names of very well-known horses that competed for £21 races at small meetings, horses like Koko and Easter Hero, that ran for £21 races at Kilbeggan. Is it not important to have them raced at these small meetings so as to train them up to be the high-class horses they afterwards develop into?—The small meetings should be encouraged as far as possible. They are the training grounds for the bigger meetings.

806. Deputy Murphy.—The last thing I see in this statement is: “Racing cannot go on under present conditions.” Is that right?—That is correct. I expressed the same view to the Tote Commission. Under present conditions racing cannot go on, because the owners cannot make it pay. That is the owners’ point of view, apart from the breeders, and racing is essential to the breeders. I believe the owners’ statement has already been given, that under present conditions racing cannot continue.

807. How do you describe the present conditions in a nutshell?—The present position is that the executives cannot make their race meetings pay because of the bad attendance, and the owner cannot make things pay out of the stakes, because the stakes are so low.

808. Your case is that the bad attendance is due to the Betting Tax?—The Betting Tax and the betting shops are one of the causes.

809. Deputy Cooper.—Do you not think that it may not be in part due to the fact that you have not the same entertainments at race meetings that there used to be?—I think so; there could be great improvements made by the Executive. First and foremost you would require to reduce the entrance fee.

Deputy Cooper.—I remember before the war at Leopardstown there used to be a band.

Witness.—I have advocated that for some time.

Deputy Cooper.—To get more a garden party atmosphere.

Witness.—And let people in at a lower rate.

Senator Bennett.—And a cheap luncheon.

Witness.—A good luncheon is a thing we want.

810. Deputy Murphy.—Do you not think that, two or three years ago, there were altogether too many race meetings, especially around Dublin?—There were, but they have been reduced.

811. People got tired of them?—It is because of the expense chiefly.

812. Deputy Shaw.—Your case is that racing cannot go on under present conditions, and that something must be done if racing is to continue, even on fairly normal lines?—Yes. One of the things is the Betting Tax. I think the figures of the various Executives have already been given.

813. Deputy Murphy.—Does the betting tax prevent very much betting on cross-Channel events? I think there is more money going through the bookmakers’ hands now than before the Betting Tax was introduced?—That is so; but the tax encourages the poorer class to bet, and from a moral point of view, apart from the business point of view, that is a thing that one should try to prevent. The Betting Act provides facilities for the poor man to go into a betting shop and have a bet. He then waits for the result of the race, and, if he wins, puts on his money again, and often at the end of a day the bookmaker has taken all his money.

814. Would you say that 70 per cent. of the bets are made on cross-Channel events?—I could not really say.

815. Chairman.—We had evidence that it was as high as 95 per cent; but I do not think that that very much affects your argument?—You have to add all things together, and you must remember that it does not cost anything to go into a betting shop. All that is charged is the tax on the bet. That is better for a man who wants to bet than having to pay at least half-a-crown to go on to a racecourse. When I refer to betting I mean, of course, betting offices as well.

Witness then withdrew.

The Committee adjourned.