Thursday, 28 November 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I discovered with some disquiet an issue mentioned in the media yesterday. The Cabinet has given approval for changes in gambling legislation to allow stakes of €5 in gambling machines versus the current limit of 3 cent, with the maximum payout increasing from 50 cent to €500. These gambling machines have been proven to destroy many lives. I remember a campaign in the 1980s to ban one-armed bandits, as they were then called. I am completely perplexed as to where this has come from. Who is advocating for these changes? What lobby group has the ear of the Ministers who decided, apparently out of the blue, to increase the minimum stake from a number of cent to quite a number of euro and the maximum payout from 50 cent to €500. We have a culture now whereby people are beginning to talk more about addiction to alcohol, drugs, pornography and gambling. The UK is going in the opposite direction. I am confused as to the thinking behind this move in respect of gambling machines. Who is advocating in respect of it? Who will benefit from it? Do we really feel that society will be enhanced by having gambling machines that can accept higher stakes and pay out more money? This proposal emerged from the Cabinet meeting held on Tuesday.
At the very least, we need to talk about this issue. A significant number of vested interests seem to get the ear of the Government. This particular move has been met with surprise and alarm. I ask the Deputy Leader to facilitate a debate as quickly as possible. I presume the Minister for Justice and Equality has responsibility in this area. Why are we doing this and who will benefit? Unless I am completely confused, from my reading of what is involved, this will be very damaging for people who already have gambling addictions. It will also be a gateway for people who do not necessarily have such addictions and it will suck them into something much more dangerous. We should not let this go without rigorous examination. I hope that, potentially, we might put a stop to it.