Seanad Éireann - Volume 91 - 14 March, 1979
Gaming and Lotteries Bill, 1979: Second Stage.
Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
Minister of State at the Departments of Tourism and Transport and Posts and Telegraphs (Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick, Dublin South-Central) Minister of State at the Departments of Tourism and Transport and Posts and Telegraphs (Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick, Dublin South-Central)
Minister of State at the Departments of Tourism and Transport and Posts and Telegraphs (Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick, Dublin South-Central): Section 1 (a) of the Bill provides, in effect, that gaming by means of a slot-machine is “unlawful gaming” within the meaning of the Gaming and Lotteries Acts.
The intention is to close off a loophole in the Acts which arises following a recent Supreme Court decision. The effect of that decision is that the type of slot-machine which delivers prizes direct to the person who operates it successfully, that is the kind which is popularly known as the “one-armed bandit”, may be operated without restriction anywhere, with the sole proviso that, in  common with all other kinds of gaming, as defined in the Acts, such machines may not be operated in premises licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquor. The intention of the Oireachtas, when the Principal Act, that is the Gaming and Lotteries Act, 1956, was being amended in 1970, was that such machines should be subject to very strict control but the Supreme Court has now decided that they were not subject to such control. Before I go on to explain the sequence of events which led to the Supreme Court decision, I should like to draw attention to the fact that other forms of slot-machines, that is those that do not deliver when successfully operated a prize direct to the player, are subject to strict controls and have been since 1956. Thus the machines which traditionally have been regarded as being potentially most socially harmful are at present virtually free from controls while those considered less harmful are subject to restrictions.
The history of the relevant provision in the Acts is briefly as follows. Section 10 of the 1956 Act outlawed the “one-armed bandit” completely. Section 4 of that Act defines certain forms of gaming as “unlawful gaming” but other sections of the Act permit “unlawful gaming” in certain very restricted circumstances. One of the kinds of gaming defined as “unlawful gaming” in section 4 is “gaming by means of any slot-machine not prohibited by section 10”. What is defined as “unlawful gaming” may be carried on in an amusement hall or funfair licensed as such under the Acts, subject, however, to certain strict limitations on the stake and the prize money and on the age of those who may take part.
In 1968 the Supreme Court declared that even those slot-machines which did not deliver prizes direct to the winner were subject to the total prohibition in section 10. The Government decided to introduce legislation to restore the position to what it had been thought to be up to the Supreme Court decision. This was done but the Bill was amended during its passage through the Dáil. The Gaming and Lotteries Act, 1970 repealed section 10 in toto. The position was then thought to be that all slot-machines  whose operation came within the definition of “gaming” in the 1956 Act were subject to the controls on “unlawful gaming” provided in that Act.
The Supreme Court, as I have said, has now declared that that is not the case. The basis for the decision is as follows. A reference to the repealed section 10 of the 1956 Act in section 4 of that Act was not repealed by the 1970 Act and the court concluded from that fact that section 4 did not apply to those machines which were formerly prohibited by section 10. In consequence, the position now is that their operation does not come within the definition of “unlawful gaming” in section 4. The parliamentary draftsman was fully satisfied in 1970 that there was no need to repeal the reference to the repealed section 10 and he believed that those machines which had been subject to the prohibition in that section would for the future be caught by section 4. That view was not accepted by the Supreme Court, though it was by the High Court judge who considered the case before it was appealed.
The Bill, in section 1 (a), proposes to restore the position to what it was thought to have been up to the recent Supreme Court decision. The proposed deletions from sections 37 and 42 of the 1956 Act, in section 1 (b), of the Bill are purely drafting ones and cannot affect the sense of those sections.
I am aware that there are demands from various quarters for far-reaching changes in the Gaming and Lotteries Acts. Some people are in favour of more restrictions and some are in favour of some “liberalisation”. This is a very complex and delicate area, however, and pressures on the Department have not so far permitted the kind of analysis that would be appropriate before any important proposals for change are formulated. In Britain, where there has been a special permanent Gaming Board for many years, a very long and highly technical report, running to over 500 pages of print, was made in July 1978 by a Royal Commission.
The unrestricted operation of slot-machines could have very unfortunate  consequences, not only in that it would pander in a very positive way to the gambling instinct but because it is a development that could attract the attention of very dubious if not downright criminal elements.
Representations have been received from the Amusement Caterers Association of Ireland asking that legislation on the lines of this Bill be enacted. That is not to say that they, and others, have not both now and in the past advocated further changes. For the reasons I have already mentioned it is not the intention at this stage at any rate to propose any further changes.
I commend the Bill to the House.
Mr. Molony Mr. Molony
Mr. Molony: This is a short Bill which as the Minister said, is necessitated by an interpretation given by the Supreme Court to the existing Gaming and Lotteries Act, 1956. It is appropriate that while our best gamblers are at Cheltenham racing festival that legislation like this should be brought before the Oireachtas. I say that in jest, of course, because anybody who travels around the country or any parts of the city will have seen the tremendous growth in the number of one-armed bandits. They not are only confined to the amusement centres they were originally designed to be confined to but appear in public houses, quite illegally, in hotel lobbies and in many places where young people gather. I have no doubt that the existence of one-armed bandits in uncontrolled or unrestricted circumstances or areas is certainly not something to be welcomed. I am glad that the Minister has brought this Bill before the Oireachtas quickly because this is something that has been out of hand now for a few years. It is difficult I know for the authorities to enforce this but if the law does not enable the authorities to enforce it there is no hope of any enforcement at all.
Up to a few months ago the law was there but again, unfortunately, there were indications that there must have been some difficulties in enforcing it because these one-armed bandits certainly were in public houses, illegally, and I know that in some towns licensees  have been asked to remove them. There are other areas where it appears that the law was not being enforced. These are very dangerous machines because they attract young people into publichouses which, inevitably, gives them the opportunity to start drinking. That is something we have to watch very carefully. I know the Bill is only concerned with gaming and lotteries but we also have to consider the advisability of having pool tables in publichouses. I know many people like to avail of facilities like that while enjoying the refreshment provided but it is noticeable that many young people during the normal lunch hour from school tend to go into publichouses and lounges to play pool, billiards or these slot machines. That is something that needs to be looked at very urgently.
I am aware that Government Departments are generally under a lot of pressure to make changes in laws that come up as a matter of urgency from time to time and this is an example of that. However, this should be used as an opportunity to highlight some of the problems that exist and to set the Minister's mind in the direction of trying to deal more comprehensively with the problems that arise day by day with slot machines and gaming generally.
I should like to make a point about gaming. It has always been a matter of great surprise to me that while we accept that we should have betting shops around our towns and cities and bookmakers at race meetings we do not accept that if a person strikes a bet and, following this has a disagreement with a bookmaker, that the courts will come to the aid of the person to assist him in proving his case. Whilst the law says a betting contract is valid it is not on the other hand an enforceable contract. There have been a few cases about it—I have not seen one going through the courts for a number of years now—and it is wrong that we should have an ambivalent attitude to this. We either say that betting on horses or dogs is legal and it happens, and if it happens we should be consistent and say that if there is a disagreement between a bookmaker and a member of the public, a punter,  the courts should be available for those people to sort out their differences.
I know some bookmakers—there are not many—who will use the law as it stands to avoid their obligations. Our attitude has been too vague in this regard and I know the feeling is that if one makes betting contracts enforceable one is seen, in a way, to be encouraging betting and gambling. I do not think that is the case. Millions of pounds are being gambled annually and maybe we should consider the advisability of that. I do not see anything wrong with gambling provided it is properly controlled but the people who gamble, whether they be bookmakers or punters are entitled to avail of the courts when a disagreement arises. I welcome this Bill and we on this side of the House support it.
Mr. McAuliffe Mr. McAuliffe
Mr. McAuliffe: I welcome the Bill also. I am delighted it has come before the House because for a long time I have been concerned about this matter. I brought it to the notice of the vintners' association when we met them. There was no doubt in my mind having met them that they are against these one-armed bandits in publichouses. At that time a report was circulated to superintendents throughout the country stating that these machines were illegal and they were removed. However, within one week they were back again and have been in operation since. I hope the Minister has blocked that loophole and that there will be no doubt about where these machines can be placed.
I have seen a lot of hardship in homes because of these machines. I have seen social welfare money lost by old age pensioners, social welfare disability allowances lost by wives of people who were out ill. I saw a person coming from Bord na Móna with £100 and after losing it all having to get the loan of £10 to get home. There is no chance of getting back money from these machines because it is estimated that only 20 per cent of the money that goes into them comes back. The fact that people saw their way to go to the Supreme Court—that costs money—to establish that these machines were legal is a clear indication that the people who had them  were robbing others. They were putting their hands into the pockets of good customers and yet were very pleased with themselves, called themselves respectable, good churchgoers and so on. They looked at systematic robbery of their customers outside the counter and did not have any qualms of conscience about doing so.
There is no doubt that fortunes were changing hands and the money usually came from the poorer sections. The vintners association were prepared to help in getting rid of these machines. There is another type of machine that is almost the same as a gaming machine, the pool table, and I would like to see some restriction introduced in relation to it. In post-primary schools, where children have no playgrounds, they go up the streets of towns during lunchtime and play these pool tables. Some children are given up to 50p to buy lunch but never buy it; they spend it on pool tables. There is 100 per cent profit on them because none of it comes back. Any decent person at a pool table will clear it in five minutes. I would like to see something done to control pool tables, especially during school hours. When the Minister comes to review the Gaming and Lotteries Act, 1956, he might remember that something should be done about pool tables.
Mícheál Cranitch Mícheál Cranitch
Mícheál Cranitch: As I was listening to the Minister's speech, and the speeches of Senators Molony and McAuliffe, I could not help thinking of the great truth in the old sean-fhocal, “Súil le breith a chailleann an cearrbhach.” The Minister said much the same in his speech. He stated:
The unrestricted operation of slot-machines could have very unfortunate consequences, not only in that it would pander in a very positive way to the gambling instinct but because it is a development that could attract the attention of very dubious if not downright criminal elements.
Speaking as much as a professional educator as a Senator, it is my view that one of the greatest menaces in present-day  civilisation is this promotion of gambling through various means. Whoever thought of this weapon, so well named the one-armed bandit, certainly knew how to attract the youth towards the vice of gambling. Of all the vices I know of, smoking, drinking, gambling and so on, I consider that gambling is easily the worst. I am sure very few Senators will fail to recall the number of broken homes, broken marriages and broken families they have come across in the course of their duties as a result of the vice of gambling. Once a gambler gets this disease nothing will stop him. He will bet on anything he can put a bet on in an uncontrolled way. We should differentiate between the various types of gambling. It is quite reasonable for a person to put a bet on a race, a horse race, a dog race or a boat race, but when one is dealing with a mechanical device it should be apparent that one does not stand a chance. The great evil about it is that a youngster is attracted to these places and now and again he sees somebody winning and he will spend his pocket money, his lunch money and his bus fares hoping to win. The time will come when he will want more money to spend on these machines and he will be driven to getting money by stealing, or otherwise in an illegal way. This one-armed bandit is one of the great curses of the present day. Youth are attracted to these things. Furthermore, if these one-armed bandits take up their abode in publichouses and so on, there is the double risk of youngsters being attracted to drink as well as to gambling.
The Supreme Court was mentioned. We hear a great deal about the Supreme Court and their decisions nowadays and the Minister told us that the intention here was to close a loophole in the Act which arises following a recent decision of that court. I hope this Bill will close that loophole because loopholes are very dangerous. One cannot help but notice that lots of loopholes are coming to light now as a result of Supreme Court decisions. I hope the Bill will close the loophole and I wish it a speedy passage through this House.
Mr. Harte Mr. Harte
Mr. Harte: I welcome the Bill. Can the Minister give an indication because  of the need for comprehensive legislation on the whole question of gaming and lotteries if this is being considered? A difficult area is the case of lotteries run by clergy. They must raise funds and so on but in their lotteries they may be in breach of the law because they have to announce that the car offered as a prize is a secondhand one even though it might be new. This is a difficult situation for them and for other charitable organisations who must raise money in this way. Is it on the cards that only licensed places for gaming and lotteries will get slot machines? Some years ago if one put an old penny in a slot machine one could win 10/-, 120/1, but now the abuse has crept in where one uses 2p to win 50p, reducing the odds to 25/1. This is discriminating against the punter. I should like to ask the Minister if he has anything in the pipeline in respect of these.
Mr. Dowling Mr. Dowling
Mr. Dowling: I should like to support the Bill but I should like additional information on certain aspects. The Minister said that what is defined as unlawful gaming may be carried on in an amusement hall or funfair licensed for such under the Acts and that they should be subject to certain strict limitations in regard to stake and prize money and the age of those who may take part. I can see no reason why, if these mechanical Al Capones are wrong in one respect they should be right in another. I fail to see why there should be any question of them being operated anywhere. When one examines the situation one sees that they are no less than bank robbers of another type.
These machines could be described as pay-as-you-spend machines and this situation has increased the gambling instinct. I wonder how serious governments have been down the years in relation to this type of activity. Is it all right for under age people to gamble if they are supporting the Tote? Under age people go to race and dog tracks and support the Tote but the law does not intervene. That is a serious situation. Where there is an age factor and gambling is involved we should have a strict line and be serious about it. We see children of every age joining in the  queues at betting shops to put their money on horses. The Minister should see to it that where this situation is developing serious thought is given to ensure that age limit restrictions are applied whether in betting shops, publichouses, at the Tote or in relation to the sale of cigarettes. We must be serious about fully implementing the law.
I, like many people, feel that this legislation is overdue but, nevertheless, we must ensure that when the Bill becomes law it is applied with a vengeance. As the Minister mentioned, it could attract, as it has, the attention of dubious or downright criminal elements. This is a gangster-type operation and everybody knows that. There may well be some people on the outer perimeter who want to instal them in amusement arcades because the law indicates that it is respectable to do so but if it is wrong to instal them in one place it is wrong to instal them in any place because the same circumstances, problems and temptations exist. For that reason the Bill does not go far enough to outlaw completely this type of machine to ensure that we can eliminate from the so-called amusement centres these one-armed bandits for good. If we are going to allow their installation in piecemeal this Bill is not measuring up to the situation as I, and others in society, would like to see it.
The Minister should seriously consider the implementation of the law in relation to under-age gambling and ensure that people who are not supposed to gamble, whether it is going to benefit the State or some State institutions, whether it is Bord na gCon or Bord na gCapall, should be subjected to the law. It is farcical to bring in a Bill of this nature that indicates the development of a gambling instinct without taking the appropriate measures to ensure that we apply the law elsewhere, particularly to State controlled institutions. I hope the time will come when we will have complete abandonment of this; if it is wrong in one sense it is wrong in every sense.
Dr. Martin Dr. Martin
Dr. Martin: I should like to ask the Minister for clarification on roughly the  same matters raised by Senator Dowling. The House would be interested to know what precisely is the age limit, where it applies and if it is equal across the board for all forms of gambling. The second matter is the question of place.
I disagree with Senator Dowling on this because a totally draconian move would be unsatisfactory. Obviously, it is perfectly wrong that slot machines should be installed in publichouses or that they should trip one up in shops and elsewhere throughout the environment. I defend their use in places like seaside resorts because most of us have memories of little funfairs by the seaside which are made up of a number of comparatively innocent amusements and which involve the one-armed bandit. I do not think a great deal of harm was done there because it was seasonal and transitory. It was not calculated to form habits. In a way it was vaguely educational because most of us, as children, when we tried the one-armed bandits by the seaside realised that we were being had. I would see that as pretty innocent. At seaside resorts the one-armed bandit was harmless enough and contributed a certain amount to the sense of festivity and the kind of festive recklessness which is part of any holiday.
I doubt whether they should exist in funhalls around cities because a lot of poor children might spend their time in them and develop, as Senator Dowling said, gambling habits. These places often become resorts for criminal elements and so on. I would like the Minister to explain fairly clearly—it is difficult to be quite clear from his speech—what the new position will be. I take it that there will be strict control, that only places licensed will be allowed to use them, that these places will be funfairs and entertainment houses, that they will be banned from licensed premises and so forth. I would like that clarified further. Perhaps the Minister would make a general statement as to what the age limit is and whether the age limit for gambling is the same for the Tote as for the funfair.
Séamus de Brún Séamus de Brún
 Séamus de Brún: Ba mhaith liomsa focal an-ghairid a rá. Fáiltím roimh an mBille seo. Measaim go mba mhaith an rud é dá dtabharfaí isteach é i bhfad roimhe seo ionas nach mbeadh an dúil sa chearrbhachas agus an sórt sin caitheamh aimsire imithe chomh fada sin chun cinn ar ár ndaoine óga. Caithfear a admháil go bhfuil sé imithe go maith chun chinn in ár ndaoine óga anois agus go bhfuil sé ag cur as dá saol ó thaobh caitheamh aimsire de, is é sin, caitheamh aimsire slán, agus ó thaobh móráltachta de freisin.
I welcome the Bill and compliment the Minister for introducing it even at this late stage. I agree with the opinions expressed by Senators and I do not wish to repeat what has already been said. I agree with Senator Dowling that it seems strange that what is wrong in one place, say in a licensed premises, is right or legal elsewhere. That is strange reasoning. I agree that some restriction or control should be exercised on pool tables. They are a recent invention and they are becoming a danger particularly to young people. They attract them and give them a passport into licensed premises which they would not otherwise be frequenting. I agree fully, as one who was a teacher, that schoolchildren, while they are waiting for a bus to take them home or at lunchtime do not engage in beneficial exercise or entertainment such as playing games but go directly to where a pool table is available to play pool. That is deplorable and is giving these children an opportunity to develop bad habits. It is having a demoralising effect on those young people and that is regrettable.
I welcome the Bill and I hope the Minister will deal with the points raised. I wish the Bill every success.
Mr. Howard Mr. Howard
Mr. Howard: I support the welcome given to this Bill. It is necessary to control the unrestricted use, as is the position at present, of these machines. I realise that I will, perhaps, be repeating what other Senators have said but nevertheless, it is desirable to re-emphasise the dangers that exist in the present situation where machines are available in publichouses and in public  places. In relation to publichouses there is the danger, if these machines are there, of bringing young people into a drinking environment. It is necessary to take steps to eliminate that risk. I have been associated with the publicans' organisation, the vintners' federation, and they have publicly stated that they are opposed to the presence of these machines on licensed premises. That is, of course, in accordance with the law as it now stands. There is a very real danger of children and teenagers gambling away what pocket money they have on these machines and, having lost all, there is a real risk that they may attempt to replace that lost mmney by stealing or resorting to other means. There is also the danger that the use of these machines by young people will have the effect of sowing the seeds of a gambling instinct at a very early age.
I accept that the title of one-armed bandit is a very appropriate one in relation to these machines. Until about three years ago, I did not realise that the pay-out from these machines could be as low as 20 per cent. An operator approached me and suggested that I might instal one of these in my premises. He said that the reward would be that we would have 80 per cent of the intake to share between us. That brought home to me very clearly the correctness of the title of the one-armed bandit. Where these machines are permitted to be used, in licensed amusement halls and so on, they should be subject to the tightest possible controls in relation to the pay-out from them and in relation to the age of the people who use them. I fully support the Bill.
Mr. Kitt Mr. Kitt
Mr. Kitt: I welcome the Bill and agree with the majority of the Senators who spoke, particularly Senator Martin, who summed it up well when he talked about the slot machines and one-armed bandits which are available at seaside resorts. They are associated with having fun in summer time and are part of the summer season. As politicians we cannot attack gambling because in a sense we are gamblers in that we put ourselves before the people and it would be very ironic if we were to attack gambling. A compulsive politician is every bit as  dangerous as a compulsive gambler to himself and his family. Indeed, some of us may end up that way. It is very dangerous to have these gambling machines in licensed premises where young people gather. The loophole that was there is now being closed off. I would like the Minister to look at other loopholes that may exist. I understand that, following a court decision, televisions are now allowed in bookie shops. I would like to know what the Bill intends to do in regard to this.
As Senator Dowling said, the age factor is very important. I would like to see the age limit enforced because the law is being flouted at the moment as regards the operation of these machines. I welcome the Bill and am glad that this restriction is there.
The position of pool tables is different from that of gambling machines. One is not expecting any return on a pool table. It is no different from billiards, snooker or other games that are played in different leisure centres. I stress, however, that where these are in licensed premises one is attracting young people to these places and starting them drinking at a very young age.
Mr. Donnelly Mr. Donnelly
Mr. Donnelly: In joining with the general welcome given to the Bill I would make two points. The control of the licence for gambling of this nature should provide an opportunity for its restriction to areas—perhaps along the lines suggested by Senator Martin— where their influence for bad is limited. The circumstances in which one-armed bandits and that type of machine are used is important. Their use in certain traditional areas, such as certain seaside resorts or funfairs, can be less harmful than their restricted use in certain other areas where the public are not sufficiently familiar with their presence.
The references made to the way in which they introduce young people to gambling highlight a problem of real injustice. We have a tremendous responsibility to protect our young people in this area. The injustice arises in two ways. First, people are introduced at too early an age to gambling and the compulsion of gambling which may lead to severe problems in later life. That is the  greatest form of injustice which this type of gambling can inflict. Secondly, there is, as Senator Howard said, the immediate injustice of placing too much temptation in the way of young or immature people and cleaning them out there and then on the spot. That is a serious injustice. Apart from that, it can put them under pressures which they are not able to withstand and can lead to other problems and conflict with the law in other ways. Everybody is agreed on those areas.
I would like to suggest two points for consideration. If they are to continue to exist there is a case to be made for their restriction to defined areas. It is important that the whole concept of the one-armed bandit be confined as far as possible to the area of amusement and removed from the area of gambling. It would be helpful if there was a very definite limit on the value of the coins which could be gambled. The use of 2p, 5p and other coins should be eliminated. The evil effects which are inherent in the system would be reduced if there was a limit of 1p on any bet that could be made through the slot machine. The mechanics of the machine are such that it works at a very fast rate.
One of the basic characteristics of gambling is the compulsive element and everybody, no matter how well balanced he may be, having lost what might appear to be a small bet will feel the immediate compulsion to try to retrieve his loss. If the rate at which the machines played was reduced, if there was only a ten second delay before the machine could be operated again that might be sufficient for people to reconsider their compulsive decision and terminate matters at that point. It would reduce the length of time they could be effectively played. One answer could be to instal additional machines but the general problems of space and crowding do not give rise to that as a solution.
Mr. E. Ryan Mr. E. Ryan
Mr. E. Ryan: This has been an interesting debate in the sense that it shows what an important part for good or evil gambling plays in this country. The views which have been expressed indicate a wide range of views as to whether gambling should be permitted in  certain circumstances or whether it should be much more restricted. As a Legislature we have an ambivalent approach to gambling, lotteries and so on. On the one hand, we tend to be very restrictive in some respects and, on the other hand, we have permitted and encouraged the sweepstakes to operate. This situation needs some kind of rationalisation. Consequently, if we have not got a committee working on this question, on the lines of the one which the Minister told us has been set up in the UK, we should have some kind of review of our approach to the question of lotteries, gaming and gambling generally, so that we could attempt to rationalise our views and discuss the philosophy of this matter. We could then bring in whatever laws would be necessary and which should be at least consistent with one another.
A number of references were made to compulsive gamblers and I should like to mention the best definition I have heard. I saw in a cartoon recently a picture of a very worried looking punter going into a race meeting and saying to himself: “Please God I will break even today, I need the money”.
Mr. Herbert Mr. Herbert
Mr. Herbert: I welcome the Bill also. As Senator Donnelly stated, one-armed bandits should be outlawed completely but that cannot be done because we have them in places of amusement at seaside resorts and at carnivals. If they were restricted to that use, it would be fine, particularly if the stake was limited to 2p.
I watched a programme on television some time ago in which compulsive gamblers on those machines were interviewed. Women, in particular, would gamble their household budget money for the week and their children's allowances. I should like to see the restricted use of these machines in places such as in O'Connell Street. It is frightening to see the number of young people congregating in amusement centres, particularly at night. It reminds one of Las Vegas between the hours of 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. Those amusement places, particularly in the inner city, seem to attract very undesirable elements. The O'Connell Street traders came out strongly a  few months ago against planning permission being obtained for amusement centres and the type of people which they were attracting.
Senator McAuliffe referred, in passing, to pool tables. I witnessed young children, particularly those in post-primary schools—even in suburban Dublin—during school hours and during lunch breaks, playing pool, not alone in public houses but also in some cafés. There should be some control regarding the use of pool tables during school hours.
Minister of State at the Departments of Tourism and Transport and Posts and Telegraphs (Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick, Dublin South-Central) Minister of State at the Departments of Tourism and Transport and Posts and Telegraphs (Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick, Dublin South-Central)
Minister of State at the Departments of Tourism and Transport and Posts and Telegraphs (Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick, Dublin South-Central): I should like to thank Senators for their very useful and constructive remarks with regard to this legislation. It is quite obvious that a major review at some future date will be necessary to cover the whole Gaming and Lotteries Acts. This Bill is very brief; it is only intended to close a loophole which was created by a Supreme Court decision. I am delighted that the House has given it a favourable Second Reading. I have no doubt that we all realise what the consequences would be if this step had not been taken quickly. I have been informed that, in the past few months, hundreds, if not thousands, of these machines have entered the country in various forms. They are not only in licensed premises but also in grocery shops and so on.
Senator Molony remarked on the enforcement of the law. I can assure Senators that the Minister for Justice has issued directions to ensure that the law will be fully enforced when this Bill goes through the House. Even without this Bill gaming machines are illegal in publichouses. This Bill will make them illegal in grocery shops and other places except in particular places which are granted licences for the purpose.
It has been stated that they should be restricted to various streets or parts of the country. It will be realised that part of the Act must be adopted by the local authorities before licences may be granted.
References were also made to pool  tables. My information is that pool tables, as such, are not within the Gaming and Lotteries Acts. As we know, they do not give any reward to people who play them. As a number of Senators have referred to the matter, perhaps at some future date it is something which can be taken into consideration in the context of an overall review of the Gaming and Lotteries Acts.
A very complicated and sensitive Bill would be needed to cover all aspects of gambling. I am not a gambling man but I must admit that I like to have an occasional flutter on a horse. The case has been made by Senator Martin and others that it would be difficult to restrict this type of gambling in certain arcades such as these which operate in Salthill, Bray and so on, in the summer time. We will have to take this into consideration. It is a business which has been established and licences have been granted for the past 20 or 30 years. When legislation is being reviewed these matters will have to be taken into consideration. I have seen places in Dublin on which I thought certain restrictions should have been placed. Evidently when local authority permission was granted or was sought in these areas, the justice saw fit to grant a licence. Local authorities and local communities can play a very vital part. I know of objections which were made recently to various types of businesses by a local community. If this type of application is being made in a district, they can be as forceful as any law in ensuring that the local authorities do not adopt the Act for the area.
Senators Martin and Dowling asked about the age limit. The age limit for this type of gambling is 16 years of age.
Dr. Martin Dr. Martin
Dr. Martin: Does that apply to children with their parents in an arcade by the seaside?
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick (Dublin South-Central) Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick (Dublin South-Central)
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick (Dublin South-Central): In respect of this Bill, it is 16 years of age.
Dr. Martin Dr. Martin
Dr. Martin: Then wholesale felonies are being committed.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick (Dublin South-Central) Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick (Dublin South-Central)
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick (Dublin South-Central): Yes, but I am informed that  that is the situation. The age limit is 16 years in these gambling arcades. These machines cannot be operated in isolation. One cannot open an arcade with one-armed bandits and nothing else: they must be complemented with other forms of entertainment other than gaming. From what I have seen around the country I doubt very much if the age of 16 is observed in many seaside resorts with which I am familiar. These matters must be looked at in the context of a full review of the Gaming Acts. To bring in legislation to prohibit practices which have been carried on in certain places over the past number of years, certainly would be a very delicate operation. In England a commission sat for a considerable length of time and produced a 500-page document to cover this whole field of gambling.
The restrictions and limitations on various aspects dealing with the Tote in racing do not come within the framework of this Bill. This is covered by the 1931 Betting Act, which is a matter for the Department of Finance.
As I have stated, these machines have been operating for about 23 years. When the whole situation is being reviewed the suggestion made by Senator Dowling and others that they should be completely prohibited must be considered. This would be a very serious decision to take, especially in relation to established practices within proper legalised amusement arcades passed in areas where the Act has been adopted by the local authorities. To that extent the Minister for Justice will have seriously to consider such suggestions before taking such a drastic step. I am in full agreement with the Minister and the House that action must be taken to ensure that gambling machines are not available, ad lib in publichouses, in grocery shops and in other unlicensed places. This Bill is to have this effect.
As Senators are aware, the Supreme Court judgment was delivered only on 19 January last but during the time that elapsed some people availed of the loophole in the Act. I have no doubt that many people operating these machines  throughout the country realised that a case was appealed to the Supreme Court and was awaiting judgement. They may have operated these machines over the past two years; a considerable number of them are operating throughout the country. However, the Minister for Justice gave directions in regard to the enforcement of the law and there were a considerable number of prosecutions in 1977-78, especially where licensed premises were concerned.
I thank Senators for their contributions to the Bill. The Bill is urgently needed in order to ensure that further violations will not take place. I would thank the Members if the Seanad could give me all Stages of the Bill today, if possible.
Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.
Seanad Éireann 91 Gaming and Lotteries Bill, 1979: Second Stage.