Seanad debates

Thursday, 28 November 2019

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

 

10:30 am

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Independent)

I also noticed the newspaper announcement to which Senator Ó Ríordáin referred. I wholly agree with the sentiments he expressed. I wonder who could be encouraging the Department of Justice and Equality to increase these limits for gambling machines in Ireland. As I have never heard of any popular demand for this, I presume it is coming from a group of people who are engaged in that business and who are twisting the arms of politicians. The damage done by these machines, fixed-odds betting terminals, in Britain and here has been enormous. They create substantial poverty and misery among people. The Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 has had the effect of prohibiting certain activities in Dublin city amusement arcades where these machines are located.One need only walk up O'Connell Street or down the quays or drive to the airport to see massive casinos in operation. The Garda has collapsed in its determination to uphold the law. I am sorry to say that some District Court judges around the country have had the wool pulled over their eyes. Revenue licences have been produced to them in circumstances where local authorities have not yet adopted - and have no intention of adopting - a resolution permitting the casinos in their area. One of the few powers left to local government is to decide on whether these machines will be permitted in their local authority area. It has been decided to allow them in places such as Bray and Bundoran, and that is fine by me. However, the city of Dublin has never authorised the operation of amusement arcades which have these machines. It is plainly and simply illegal. Money is talking. The blatant loophole in our laws which is allowing this to happen without prosecution or enforcement has been allowed to remain for many years. Vast sums of money are being invested in and taken out of the casinos.

I totally agree with Senator Ó Ríordáin that the time has come for somebody in Government to claim responsibility for the proposal to increase the maximum stakes and payouts. I have the greatest of respect for the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, whom I very much like as an individual. Is he seriously going to come to this House to tell us that he wishes to increase the sums of money people can gamble and win on these machines? Will he explain to the House who has asked him to increase the limits? Will he claim it is important for tourism or will he face up to the fact that it would increase misery, the number of people falling into gambling addiction, the consequences for their families, criminality and so on? It is inexplicable that the Government would facilitate the change. There is no demand or good reason for it. The law is being openly flouted in Dublin and it is about time the Garda Commissioner, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Minister for Justice and Equality closed down the casinos in Dublin which are being operated in total disregard of the law of the land.

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