MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Dé Céadaoin, 27adh Feabhra, 1929.
(Wednesday, 27th February, 1929.)
The Joint Committee met at 11.30 a.m.
SENATOR SIR BRYAN MAHON in the Chair.
EVIDENCE OF Mr. C. THORPE.
Mr. C. J. Thorpe (Secretory, Irish Bookmakers’ Association) called and examined.
655. Chairman.—Mr. Thorpe, you represent the Irish Bookmakers’ Association?—Yes, an old established Association, in existence about twenty years. It was registered twenty years ago as an association, and re-registered as a trade union in 1915. I have made my statement as concise as possible, not to be wading through a volume of documents.
The witness handed in the following statement:—
Application for Licence.
As heretofore (after having advertised in two newspapers 14 days previously), Gárda Superintendent to give certificate within seven days of application. In case of refusal, reasons for same to be given at time of refusal.
Suitability of Premises.
Same procedure as for Personal Licence. No certificates granted to Licensed Vintners or for any portion of their premises set aside or partitioned for use as a betting office.
Paying immediately on receipt of Result.
Should be prohibited. (It is suggested that payment be made within an hour after last race or on following day.)
Payment immediately after results is an outstanding cause of undue congregating and loitering.
Licence and Registration Fees.
Present scale is exceedingly high, having regard to the hardship of percentage tax on turnover.
(An attempt was made at outset of introduction of Betting Act to create a monopoly by the suggestion of an exorbitant licence duty, and it was falsely asserted that a large number were prepared to pay such high licence duty. That said assertion was false, nobody should be better aware than the Revenue authorities.)
Comparison may be invited with the licence fee paid by auctioneers, cattle salesmasters, etc., who, in a single day, may turn over some thousands of pounds, with an assured percentage of profit. It is inequitable to suggest that the average bookmaker should pay high licence fees, considering that his turnover might easily not reach £100 on a day’s transactions, and having regard also to the fact that transactions may, and frequently do, result in loss to him.
Number of Licences.
It is suggested that no bookmaker should be granted more than three licences in any one city or town.
Gárda Síochána to be empowered to receive all complaints. No complaints to be entertained regarding transactions prior to introduction of Betting Act, 1926.
Cases of flagrant default to be sufficient cause for refusal of licence.
Objections to Licences.
No parties to an objection in the case of personal licence or suitability of premises other than Gárda or Revenue authorities, and all complaints and objections to be lodged with Gárda.
Suggested 1/- win. Higher minimum would tend to diversion of business to undesirable channels (runners and probably unlicensed bookmakers).
Observance of an Age Limit in S.P. Offices.
No bet to be accepted from persons under the age of 16 years.
Hours of Business.
S.P. Offices to be allowed to remain open from 10 a.m. until one hour after last race.
It is respectfully suggested that D.J.’s be granted more discretionary power, and that present scale of penalties be substantially revised.
Question of Guarantees.
Wide experience has shown that the possession of a large banking account is no guarantee of integrity. A large number of bookmakers in a small way of business bear a high reputation for straight dealing.
656. Witness.—We are the only association, up to June, 1926, of bookmakers in Ireland.
657. Another one sprung up after the Betting Tax was passed?—Yes, as an antidote to the tax.
658. But do you work in conjunction with the other at all?—No. We are composed for the greater part of racecourse bookmakers. We have some dozen men who run offices, but the majority of our members are racecourse members— a number of men in the ring, and a number of men who bet in the smaller rings and outside the ring. and I think that so far as our bona fides is concerned we bear the very highest reputation with the Revenue authorities; I do not think there is any other section of the betting community that has so good a reputation with them. In the first paragraph of my statement I state that we prefer the application for a licence to be made as heretofore (after having advertised in two newspapers fourteen days previously), the application to be made to a superintendent of the Gárda, he to give a certificate within seven days of the application. In case of a refusal the reasons should be given at the time as the refusal. Up to now a number of days had to elapse if, for any reason, the superintendent refused a certificate, before an application could be made for the reasons for the refusal. I think it would expedite matters if he gave his reasons for the refusal at the same time as he gave the refusal. The reason why I say the matter should be left with the Gárda is because I think it would be somewhat expensive to have applications before magistrates. We might have to engage lawyers, and then there might be objectors, who might not have a locus standi, chipping in, whereas the superintendent of the Gárda could take all objections— objections in cases of default or in the case of anything against the person’s character—and he could arrange these and put them before the court if there is any necessity for an appeal. Another reason why we prefer the Gárda is that we have found them very fair in the past. I came in contact with a couple of superintendents in the case of appeals on technical points, such as refusal of certificates for suitability of premises, and I found such men as the superintendent at Rathmines. Superintendent Long and Superintendent Walsh most careful and fair in their dealings, and I do not think we could improve upon them in any way.
659. Your chief reason is for the sake of economy?—That is the main reason, but, of course, we would prefer it to remain in the hands of the Gárda.
660. Who pays the cost of advertising? —The bookmaker.
661. You think that this is cheaper than employing a lawyer?—I think it is much cheaper to make applications through the Gárda than to make applications directly before the District Justice and employ a lawyer, in addition to advertising. It is purely a matter of economy. Then, as regards the suitability of premises, I would say that the same procedure should be employed as in the case of the personal licence. One point I want to stress is that no certificate should be granted to licensed vintners, or for any portion of their premises set aside or partitioned off for use as a betting office. There are some public-houses at the present time that have cut off their halls and turned them into betting offices—portion of the premises that had formerly been licensed, cut away from the licensed premises. They spent money on them and converted them into betting offices. I maintain that in these cases loitering will take place to a greater extent than in other cases, because they can loiter and drink in the public-houses while they are waiting for the results. I think it is most important that no part of the premises of a licensed vintner’s house should get a certificate under any circumstances.
662. Would you go further than that and say that close proximity to a licensed vintner’s premises should be taken as an objection to a site for a betting office?— I would not go so far as that, unless it was almost next door.
663. That is what I say. I mean a door or two away?—I would not say within a door or two. A man might be in a street a couple of doors away from a public-house and he might not walk into such premises. There are three such premises in the town at the present moment—I do not want to mention names—where portion of the licensed house has been converted into a betting office.
664. Deputy Cooper.—Is that in Dublin?—Yes.
665. Chairman.—But surely that is against the Act of Parliament, it it not? —I could not say that. The facts remains that it is going on. I could mention names, if you so desire.
666. Normally the Court would object to such premises. How do they get over the difficulty about closing between 2.30 and 3.30?—It was formerly part of the licensed premises, but it is now partitioned off.
667. It was part of the premises to which the licence was granted?—Originally, but they cut it away.
668. If it is part of the premises to which the licence was originally granted it ought to close between 2.30 and 3.30, or the owner would forfeit the licence?—In one case the lavatory of the public-house was cut away and converted into a betting office. That may seem somewhat grotesque or ridiculous, but it is a fact. In another case a hut has been erected in the yard belonging to the public-house.
669. And you would like a provision in the Act that no portion of a licensed premises should be used?—I am aware that there is such a provision.
670. But you would like it made stronger?—I would like it made impossible that such a state of affairs could be. I could mention the houses, but I do not want to do so.
671. Deputy Doyle.—I do not think it would be advisable to mention the houses.
Witness.—No, I had better not. With regard to these matters of personal fitness and suitability of premises, we prefer to deal with the Gárda. We think it would be less expensive, and we have the utmost confidence in their fairness and in their ability to deal with the matter. With regard to my third paragraph—betting immediately after the receipt of the results—from experience we believe that that should be prohibited. This prevails in a great many offices, and from our experience we believe that it is the outstanding cause of congregating and loitering. They get the result on the ’phone and they pay immediately afterwards. That naturally keeps people waiting to get the result, and to get paid when they hear the result. We think that that should be prohibited.
672. Chairman.—You say “An hour after the last race or the following day” —that they could come back in the evening to get paid, or come the next day, and that that would obviate the necessity of their waiting for the result?—Yes, and hanging about.
673. Deputy Cooper.—You are entering two horses for this race—an hour after or the following day. Which do you declare to win with?—I would leave it optional with them to pay either after the last race or on the following morning.
674. Would you not think that for them to go on the following morning would bring about the same state of affairs?— No, I would not think so. It would be like this: A man comes in, as he did in the old days when he had to evade the police, with his scrap of paper and has £3 or £4 coming from the previous day. He hands in his docket, gets his payment and departs; whereas at the present time he hangs about waiting for the results, and he gets the results after each race. A great many hang about the place waiting for the result of each race, and betting on each race.
675. Would you be in favour of having payment in the morning, or not later than one hour before the first race?—That would be all right, but it would be difficult for some people who could not get out. I would say that payment the following day would not cause loitering. It did not do so when people were liable to be raided by the police. They got away very quickly before the introduction of the Betting Act. They did not loiter so much then as they do since.
The present scale (licence and registration fees) is exceedingly high, having regard to the hardship of percentage tax on turnover (£10 for personal fitness and £20 for suitability of premises). An attempt was made at outset of the introduction of the Betting Act, to create a monopoly by the suggestion of an exorbitant licence duty….
Some half-dozen men came together and went before the Finance Minister, or the Revenue Commissioners, and said that there were two or three hundred men who were prepared to pay £200 or £300 yearly in licence duty. That is not the case. There may be four or five such bookmakers, but there are not 30 men with any capital to speak of. It was falsely asserted that a large number were prepared to pay such high licence duty. No one knows better than the Revenue authorities that that assertion is false. They have experience of collecting the tax, and they know very well that there is not a very large number of men prepared to pay such high licence duty. I think Mr. Randall, chief of the Executive staff of the Revenue Commissioners, told the Committee that. The Commissioners have two years’ experience of collecting the tax.
Comparison may be invited with the licence fee paid by auctioneers, cattle salesmasters, etc., who, in a single day, may turn over some thousands of pounds, with an assured percentage of profit. It is inequitable to suggest that the average bookmaker should pay such a high licence fee, considering that his turnover might easily not reach £100 on a day’s transactions, and having regard also to the fact that transactions may, and frequently do, result in loss to him.
I think more often than not there is a loss, as is evidenced by the great number of men who are blotted out. Senator Parkinson knows that men who amassed a great deal of money for a number of years have been wiped out in the course of one season.
676. Senator Bennett.—We know of some others also.
Witness.—The Senator had a great deal to do with that, owing to his favourites winning. It is also suggested that no bookmaker should be granted more than three licences in any one city or town. There are some men in the city of Dublin who possess six or seven licences, and I respectfully submit that they are not the best men in the business and not the most reliable. With regard to complaints, we suggest that the Gárda Síochána be empowered to receive all complaints; that they should arrange to sort them out and see if they were cases that were fit to be brought on.
677. Chairman.—Would you limit the number of licensed betting houses?—With regard to a bookmaker, I would not give more than three licences to anyone.
678. Would you limit the number of licences in a particular town?—That would be difficult.
679. Would you give three licences to a man in Dublin and three in Claremorris? —I would not. I do not think that man would have control.
680. You think there should be a limitation in the smaller towns?—I would say that there should be a limitation to one in smaller towns.
681. You have not thought out a population basis that would justify the issue of three or four licences?—In a case like Dundalk, or a town with 12,000 or 14,000 of a population, I would give a few.
682. Would that apply to a town above 10,000 population?—About that. The Gárda Síochána should be empowered to receive all complaints. The Gárda could arrange to sort out the complaints, which are sometimes frivolous, and could not be taken into consideration. No complaints should be entertained regarding transactions prior to the introduction of the Betting Act in June, 1926. Some persons, and some bookmakers, endeavoured to use the Betting Act as a means of pursuing, or collecting, outstanding disputed debts. I remember a case with which I had to deal myself in my official capacity as secretary, where one bookmaker objected to another over a disputed transaction or bet, contracted seven years prior to the passing of the Act. Needless to say that bookmaker was defeated on appeal, and the case was thrown out of Court. I think there should be a limited time put on complaints as regards default. Where anyone has a case of default that arose since the passing of the Betting Act in 1926, that should be a valid reason for refusing a licence, but not prior to 1926. The reason for that is to prevent people using the Act as a means of pursuing disputed transactions. There should be no parties to an objection in the case of a personal licence or suitability of premises other than the Gárda or Revenue authorities, and all complaints and objections should be lodged with the Gárda. The Gárda would then sort them, and our experience is that they have been very fair, and have shown great ability in the transaction of their business. I am sure if they got more power to receive complaints as to default they would bring them up, and produce the complainants as witnesses. It would be a very difficult thing for anyone to go before the District Justice to become an objector. That is the reason that objections should come through the Guards, who would produce the objectors as witnesses, or the Revenue authorities.
683. You say that rooms have been taken off public-houses for betting purposes? —The contention is that there were several appeals to the District Justice regarding the refusal of licences by the police, that the Act was lax and was not water-tight, as it did not confer sufficient power on the Guards with regard to these matters. That is why I suggest an amendment of the Act, so as to make it impossible for such things to arise again. We suggest that the minimum bet should be 1s. to win. If the minimum were made higher we believe it would tend to divert business into undesirable channels, such as “runners” and probably unlicensed bookmakers. Prior to the passing of the Betting Act, Dublin was honey-combed with illicit bookmakers, in billiard-rooms, public-houses and other holes and corners. If the Betting Act has done anything from our point of view, it has done one thing, in having absolutely abolished street bookmakers —an undesirable class—“runners” and illicit bookmakers. I think if the minimum were made higher than one shilling it would tend to resurrect them and put them into business. We agree with the age limit, that no person under 16 should be allowed into a betting office, and certainly no women or children. As regards hours of business, the Betting Act provides that the hours shall be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. I suggest 10 a.m. to an hour after the last race. I understand that a great many of the meetings around London are fixing the time of the first race from 3.30 p.m. to 4 o’clock during the coming season. That would leave the last race 6 o’clock.
684. Have you considered the question of closing hour in so far as it is concerned with the very grave objection of numbers of people remaining on between 1 and 2 o’clock, and, perhaps, after two o’clock, that being in most cases the lunch hour for working-class people?— I have considered that.
685. And the effect of closing between those hours?—Yes. We have considered that. That is the lunch or dinner hour for working people and, even prior to the passing of the Betting Act, they used to come along and have their bets during that hour. It is the only time they could have a bet. I do not hold any brief for betting offices, but if these offices were closed between 1 and 3, I think it would tend to hand the business over to the street bookmaker and the hole-and-corner man. If the workman could not get an office open, he would go to a billiard room or a public-house, where he would meet a runner and give him his money.
686. If you suggest a minimum bet of a shilling win, that money, even if it went to a runner, would find its way to a bookmaker eventually?—Not in a proper way. There could be no check from the revenue point of view on money that would be handed in in a billiard room or a public-house.
687. You suggest as closing-hour one hour after the last race. You also propose to settle after the last race or next day. Would an hour after the last race be sufficient for that?—Ample.
688. You would settle the whole day’s transactions in that time?—Yes. We are quite content to close one hour after the last race. The hours might be from 10 to 6.30. The latest hour of running at Hurst Park and Kempton would be about 5.30. To have a closing hour between 1 and 3 would resurrect the street bookmaker without doubt. They would get so much of this business of the one-shilling and two-shilling type that they would risk loitering around billiard rooms and public-houses. It would be very hard to check that, and it would be very hard for the Revenue authorities to deal with it, because the man who would do such business would not be a licensed bookmaker.
689. Senator Bennett.—Do you think that if there was a large fine, as there is at present, and an indeterminate time in jail, these street bookmakers would be resurrected?—They are not bookmakers at all, strictly speaking.
690. They are individuals liable to prosecution?—I would say they are desperadoes.
Deputy Doyle.—They carried on this business before?
691. Does this money find its way to the bookmaker eventually?—There would be men of what I would call the “desperado type” in this business. Some of them are in business even at the present time. That kind of thing is practically at an end, but there are a few who chance it still.
692. A very grave evil at the present time is that men loiter on Saturday afternoons around the betting offices. There is a big inducement, particularly to a poor man who may win a few shillings on the first race, to remain on until, say, 2 o’clock, and then perhaps until the last race, with varying fortunes. He may win a few shillings on the first race and lose a few shillings on the next. But he is induced to remain on by the system of payment immediately on receipt of the result. It is known to the Gárda Síochána and to many citizens that this evil is growing and that it has had a very bad effect on the social life of the country. It has come to my knowledge, and to the knowledge of many others, that many men, particularly of the working class, have lost practically their whole week’s wages on a Saturday, which is an undesirable state of affairs?— Without a doubt.
693. As a general rule, the pay-day is Saturday about one o’clock. Assuming the betting offices were closed from 2 to 3, that would give a man time to go to an office, make his bet, and then go home and have lunch. The inducement to remain on would be negatived?—I doubt if it would. I think the specific for that is to stop paying after result. Prior to the passing of the Betting Act, the loitering to which you refer did not exist. If you take certain offices, say, in Parliament Street and other streets, where payment is not made after the result, you will find no loitering. In other places they get the result three or four minutes after the race has been run, and the man who has had a bet waits for the runners in the next race and makes a further bet. Then he waits on the result of that. The specific for that state of affairs is to stop payment after the result. I do not think that closing would remedy the matter. They could get into a billiard room or public-house and get the results sent on.
694. Deputy Doyle.—Would you agree to closing between 2.30 and 3.30, which is the same hour as the public-houses?—No. I think it would do harm. Any closing between 1 and 3 would resurrect the illicit traffic.
695. Deputy Anthony.—I am not satisfied that it would do anything of the kind. The people of this country are not so trustful as to give their money to runners and not get some sort of ticket. I have seen these bets go into a book-maker’s office through the medium of a runner. It is not my experience that people are so trustful that they are going to give their money to runners?—They may get a ticket.
696. But that ticket would come from some place, and the Act would probably be severe enough to rope in these people if they evaded payment of the tax?—I do not say that these people would fail to pay or would not give a receipt. They undoubtedly would issue a ticket. They would carry a bundle of tickets with them.
697. Would the name of the firm be on the ticket?—It might or it might not. There might be initials on the ticket and the number. The tickets would be numbered from one to a thousand.
698. That would be an evasion of the Act?—Yes.
699. The fact of having that number on the ticket would make it easy for the Gárda to track down its place of origin?— I do not say that all these runners would defraud the people, but I do say they would evade the Betting Act, and that it would be very difficult to check them.
700. Personally, I cannot see that objection?—These tickets existed before there was a Betting Act.
701. Have you any idea of the system in operation before the introduction of the Betting Act?—In a great many cases, there were no tickets. They handed in dockets, and they were filed.
702. That was the system, as far as I know?—Yes. I do not think the issue of a ticket would be any check, from a revenue point of view, except a dispute arose and the backer took his ticket to a policeman.
703. Even under the 1926 Act there is a certain amount of evasion as regards payment of tax?—Apparently there is, but I think the executive staff of the Revenue authorities have shown extraordinary ability. I did not think it was possible to administer the Betting Act and to collect the tax successfully. We were absolutely opposed to the betting tax in every shape and form, whether as a licence duty or a percentage of tax, because—it may be a funny thing to say— we thought it morally wrong. Apart from that, we did not think racing could afford it. We thought it would take a lot of money out of the business. There is no doubt it has reduced the volume of business and the attendance at race meetings, although the attendance had been falling away for a few years previously owing to scarcity of money. The tax put the top-weight on that.
704. With regard to attendance at race meetings, have you any idea as to what is the cause of the falling-off at Irish race meetings?—I have a first-hand experience of the falling-off in betting. It has fallen about 50 to 75 per cent. in the past four years. It has been falling away for over four years. The scarcity of money is one reason, but I have no doubt that the tax has had a great deal to do with it, too. The rate of falling-off has increased within the last two years.
705. Have you any opinion as to why a greater interest is taken in English racing than in Irish racing?—That would be very difficult to answer. They have racing every day, and they have bigger fields and bigger stakes. I do not know how the bookmakers here make a living, as they bet so very extravagantly. They frequently bet to a loss in Ireland, but in England, with big fields and big prices, the market is wider and there is greater protection.
706. Deputy Cooper.—Your Association mainly consists of race-course book-makers?—Yes.
707. Can you give me any idea of what your membership is?—Close on 80.
708. Your members live, for the most part, in Dublin?—Yes.
709. A certain number live in the provinces, in Cork and Clonmel, and so on? —Yes.
710. Have most of your members licensed premises, or do they simply bet on the course?—There are only about a dozen with licensed premises.
711. In betting on the course they bet mostly on Irish races?—Yes.
712. There would be an occasional bet on races like the Derby?—Yes.
713. There would not be a great deal of betting on the course other than on the races actually taking place?—They bet on the races taking place on the course.
714. In the betting offices, on the other hand, the betting is mainly on English races?—Yes.
715. The majority of your members are not concerned with that betting?—No.
716. You are not concerned with the various provisions as to suitability of premises, complaints as to hours of business, and so on?—We are concerned in so far as our members who have premises are concerned.
717. One recommendation we had was that the exhibition of lists should be prohibited?—We do not favour the exhibition of lists.
718. You would like them with regard to the racecourse itself?—Yes. We favour them on the racecourse but not in the office.
719. Another point was made by the Senior District Justice as to the objection to a licence. You suggest that all objections should be made by the Gárda?— Yes.
720. Mr. Cussen suggested that any parishioner should be allowed to make a complaint?—He can. Any citizen can make a complaint, but he should do so through the Gárda. The Gárda would be the party to the cause, and the complainant would be brought forward as a witness.
721. As to the refusal on the grounds of suitability, the words are: “that the premises are in close proximity to a place of worship, a religious institution, a school, an employment exchange, a factory or works.” You would not be in favour of allowing a clergyman in a place of worship, the master or mistress of a school, or the manager of an employment exchange the right to appear?—No.
722. You consider that all complaints should go through the Gárda?—Any citizen might appeal, but I think that clergymen and people like that might be prejudiced.
723. It is possible that citizens could have a grievance?—The Gárda can bring forward the citizen.
724. Do you think that a clergyman should have a right to object to a shop opposite his church?—Yes, but only through the Gárda, because it makes it much easier. The Gárda sort out all these objections and take the frivolous ones away.
725. We had a definite case in which the proprietor of a school objected to a certificate of suitability of premises. The Gárda had apparently taken no notice of it or did not hear of it, and the justice was unable to hear the schoolmaster?— Had he made his complaints to the Gárda, the Gárda would have brought him forward as a witness.
726. You are making the Guards judges?—No. I am only making them the party to the cause. A great many frivolous objections might arise and a great many objectors with no locus standi whatever.
727. I agree with regard to the frivolous ones; but do you not think it is unlikely that persons in responsible positions— clergymen or schoolmasters—are likely to bring forward frivolous objections?—I do not think they would be likely to do so, but they can do so now through the Gárda.
728. Surely when the exclusion of these premises is specifically mentioned in the Act you do not still persist in saying that you would not allow the occupiers and owners of these premises to intervene except through the Gárda?—Only through the Gárda.
729. With regard to penalties, you think it imminently reasonable to give the district justice discretionary power?—Not altogether discretionary power but more discretionary power.
730. Where the shoe pinches yourself. I want to make a suggestion. You have a little bias with regard to the establishment of your own perfect rights?—No.
731. In the bottom paragraph on the last page you invite comparison with auctioneers and salesmasters; do you seriously invite that?—Yes, in this way. They pay a £10 licence duty. We know very well that certain prominent auctioneers sell thousands of pounds worth of furniture, cattle and sheep in one day, with a huge percentage of profit.
732. You think the function of a bookmaker is precisely the same?—No, but the licence duty is high enough, considering the possibility of these earning powers.
733. Do you not recognise that a salesmaster is part of the machinery of industry but the bookmaker is not?—That is not the point. The point is, is he capable of paying the licence duty. I am not making a comparison with regard to his usefulness as a citizen. What I suggest is that the cattle salesmaster would be much more capable of paying a heavy licence duty than an unfortunate bookmaker.
734. Should not the State encourage a useful business by a low licence duty?— I do not think that question arises. It was morally wrong to impose a tax, because you, gentlemen, and all governments, have looked upon bookmaking as a reprehensible thing. When you look upon it as a reprehensible thing you should not accept any money out of it.
735. Deputy Anthony.—I think there is a great deal in that. If it is an immoral thing you may as well get money out of a disorderly house as out of it.
736. Deputy Cooper.—You are not in agreement with the editor of “Sport”?— Not at all, preposterous. I think it is a means of defeating the Government and the Revenue Commissioners from collecting tax of any description. I do not think Mr. Byrne has this idea. It is probably the idea of some of his great personal friends.
737. You suggest that the present rate of licence duty is very high—that £10 is very high?—It is, and the percentage tax on turnover is a very big thing.
738. What do you think would be reasonable?—£10 would be a reasonable licence duty if the tax were approximated to the English tax at 1 or 1¼ per cent.
739. Licence is one thing and tax is another?—A tax on turnover is a great hardship.
740. Could you concentrate on what a reasonable licence fee should be?—£10 as a maximum.
741. What would be reasonable? You say the present scales are too high?— When you consider the percentage on turnover along with it I should say £10 would be the maximum.
742. It is fair?—It would be if it were not for the percentage tax. If a small man bets up to £200 a day in the ring he is paying £5 in addition to his licence duty and in the office £10 in addition to his licence duty. Consequently, I think £10 should be the maximum licence duty.
743. You suggest that no bookmaker should be granted more than three licences?—Yes.
744. I take it that the licence bestows some privilege on the bookmakers, gives them the legalised right to bet?—That refers to three licensed premises in one town.
745. You have determined the number of bookmakers in any town, irrespective of size?—It would be a difficult thing to limit the number of bookmakers.
746. You say this refers to licensed houses?—Yes.
747. Would you give any number of bookmakers’ licences? Taxe X bookmakers, X being anything you like, would you give them three houses each? —No.
748. You qualify that?—I think the Guards should have power to refuse licences if there are already a sufficient number of licences in the district or parish.
749. Deputy Doyle.—Would you say there was quite a sufficient number of bookmakers in the whole country?—Yes. There are more than sufficient. One man has thirty-four licences.
750. Senator Bennett.—I think one man had something like fifty or sixty licences?—Another man had fourteen. With regard to the paragraph as to District Justices being granted more discretionary power they are tied up to a fine of £500. We have impressed upon all our members the importance of keeping accurate accounts and of settling regularly with the Revenue Commissioners. I think the Revenue Commissioners can vouch for the integrity of our Association. I will show you one of our cards, (Card produced.) We try and keep our men as honest as we can and we impress upon them the importance of paying their way. Those are the bills we put up in Shelbourne Park. (Bill produced.) Horse racing is not the only form of sport in which we are interested because there is a great deal of betting at grey-hound racing, coursing and other places. The District Justice has no discretionary power for a first offence. A man might be guilty only of suppressing a very small amount. If the Revenue officer proved that he suppressed ten shillings the District Justice might have to fine him £500 without any power of looking into the merits of the case. I think a substantial fine should be imposed for fraud.
751. You know the procedure with regard to an application for a licence for betting premises. An advertisement is published and a certificate of fitness is issued by the Gárda?—That is so.
752. In the first year of the Act it was found that bookmakers who did not live in the Free State could not obtain a licence to bet on the race tracks?—We think that licences should be limited to residents in the Saorstát, but there should be some provision to enable bookmakers who have been accustomed to doing business at Irish race meetings for thirty years, men of good repute, to get licences in the Free State.
753. Would it not meet the case if people of that standing got a recommendation from the turf authorities—the National Hunt or the Turf Club—and that that should be sufficient for the District Justice to grant a licence to persons of that type to bet on the race tracks?—I do not know about that. I suppose the Government would be very chary about admitting any private body or board to act as an intermediary in the matter of obtaining licences for betting. I respectfully suggest that there should be some provision in the Act whereby licences could only be granted to persons ordinarily resident in the Saorstát, with an exception made for those men of repute who had been carrying on business in the Saorstát for past ten years.
754. If the ruling authorities make a recommendation, surely that should carry sufficient weight with the issuing authoritity?—With regard to that particular item, I would say certainly yes, that it should.
755. I take it there are not more than five bookmakers of the class to which you have been referring?—I know of three who have been acting for thirty years. They are men of high repute— Messrs. Shaw, McAlinden, and Cooper. I think they are a loss to the ring.
756. Senator Parkinson.—If you reverse the position, Irish bookmakers who want to bet in England find no difficulty in getting a licence from the English authorities?—None.
757. Do you think it is unfair that we should differentiate against the English bookmakers who want to bet here?—I agree that it is unfair.
758. Have you any idea if a number of men who have been put out of business have come back again under assumed names?—No, I do not think so. They have come back by the way of putting in relatives. A bookmaker who wanted to come back would take out a licence, say, in his brother’s or father’s name. Experience has shown that the possession of a large banking account is no integrity. A large number of bookmakers in a small way of business bear a high reputation for straight dealing. There are some defaulters amongst bookmakers, and a great many defaulters, not amongst al-bookmakers generally, but amongst alleged bookmakers who are not members of any association. They continually default. I know of four or five bookmakers who have large banking accounts and property but who are not honourable men and who are continuous defaulters. If they were asked for guarantees they could produce them and they could show a banking account for a very large amount and could show that they possessed property, but that is no guarantee. A proper guarantee of a man’s integrity is a reference as to his character. If a bookmaker knew that if he were guilty of a flagrant default his licence would be withdrawn immediately without waiting for the end of the year to do so that would have a salutary effect.
759. Would not the same thing apply in the case of men with a large banking account?—If you granted a licence on the proof that a man had a large banking account, that is no guarantee of integrity. A man who has £100 to his credit can work according to his means.
760. I concede the point. You suggest there are many people with large banking accounts and property who are from time to time defaulters?—Who are continuous defaulters. I cannot mention names, but I know of four in this city who are notorious.
761. That is a very serious and note-worthy statement. Their clients must be very foolish people or the law is loose when these people are allowed to escape? —The law is loose.
762. Deputy Anthony.—I think serious notice should be taken of the statement you have made, that there are in this city, and perhaps elsewhere in the Free State area, a number of bookmakers who can produce evidence to show that they have large banking accounts, but who are continuous defaulters. I suggest these people should be put out of business as soon as possible to clear the bookmakers’ profession. The authorities, in my opinion, should take a note of that statement and act on it.
Chairman.—Their clients have the remedy in their own hands. They can put them out of business if they like.
Senator Bennett.—They can put them out of race-courses, but can they put them out of licensed premises?
763. Witness.—I know at least three or four men who are solvent, and yet whenever they strike a bad patch they do not pay their way.
764. Deputy Anthony.—The smaller men do so as a rule?—They have to.
765. Chairman.—You allude to men betting in the ring as well?—Yes.
766. Well, the public have the remedy in that?—The Revenue authorities have nothing to do with that.
Chairman.—I do not say the Revenue authorities, but the people these bookmakers owe the money to have the remedy in their own hands.
767. Senator Bennett.—As regards the legalisation of betting claims, do you make any claim that betting debts should be recovered?—We would like legalisation, but we would not advocate it, for it might be abused. I think persons should be compelled to pay on cash transactions, but I would not ask the Government. I do not think such a system prevails in any country as would permit a bookmaker to sue a man and put in sheriffs and bailiffs to recover in a betting transaction. I would not put it in the book-maker’s power to put in sheriffs and bailiffs.
768. From your own knowledge, it would lead to great abuses?—It would lead to abuses, and I am sure, Senator, from your experience you would agree with that. I have known bookmakers in the past who, when they knew men had got money, or were about to get money, they allowed them to go on betting until their accounts had piled up, and then they put the screw on. If they had the power to put the sheriffs and bailiffs in, what position would these men be in? It might suit a great many of our men to be able to sue for their debts, but yet we would not advocate it. Another matter I would like to mention is in connection with football coupons, regarding which a school teacher gave evidence here as to their being a cause of great evil. Undoubtedly they are sold in shops and other places, but the people who sell them are not bookmakers. Betting on football is illegal, and there has been a conviction on that since the passing of the Betting Act. What is known as football double coupons and jockeys’ double coupons are sold in hucksters’ and newsagents’ shops for 3d. and 6d. I believe they are illegal. There is a lot of money wasted on them, and they are an inducement to young fellows to gamble, but bookmakers have nothing to do with them.
769. Are you in favour of allowing betting at athletic sports?—It is legal under the Act if the executive permit it, but if there is a notice up forbidding it, it is illegal. I think that might be left as it is, and leave it open to the executive to permit it or otherwise. With regard to Revenue officers going in to betting premises, they must go in, as they have to examine accounts. I know of two cases where bookmakers are working, one in the case of a big factory, without a licence and taking bets. There is a section in the Act which permits Revenue officers or others to enter premises where they suspect betting to be taking place. That should be left as it is. I believe, on the whole, that the tax has done no good to Irish racing.
The witness then withdrew.