HC Deb 23 July 1913 vol 55 cc2058-61

I beg to move, "That leave be given to introduce a Bill to prevent the writing, printing, publishing, or circulating in the United Kingdom of advertisements, circulars, or coupons of any ready money football betting business."

I introduce this Bill at the request of the Football Association, which is the great governing body of this great democratic sport. The Football Association is a well-known body, having attached to it something like. 15,000 amateur clubs, 400 professional clubs, and about 7,000 professional and 250,000 amateur players. The matches played number something like 8,000 per week, and they attract great crowds, consisting of hundreds of thousands of people. The Football Association has long been determined to endeavour to free this game from the excrescences which have grown upon it in connection with betting and gambling, and in so doing it has the hearty support of the sister associations in Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. As a rule, in introducing a Bill of this kind at such a late period of the Session one has little hope of passing it into law and is content to obtain such an advertisement and general discussion not only in the House of Commons, but in the country of the objects of their Bill, as will enable it in the following Session of Parliament to gain sufficient support to pass the Bill into law. I indulge in even greater expectations; I am emboldened, as a result of conversations with many hon. Members, and by the backing of the Bill, to think that it is not too late to place it upon the Statute Book, so that it may come into operation on the 1st January of next year. It is brought in to meet the wishes of all interested in that splendid sport-to put down everything that is disagreeable, and everything that tends to bring the sport into disrepute in the way of ready-money coupon betting.

The Bill does not aim at any interference with individuals who choose by means of a bet or wager to back their opinion as to the merits or winning powers of any football team or the goal-getting capacities of any individual member of that team. If this Bill becomes law, no man will be prevented from or penalised hereafter for making any bet as to the result of a football match, but penalties will follow those who hereafter indulge in promoting this ready-money coupon betting business, which is now carried on on a very great scale throughout the country. There is scarcely a mill or factory or workshop where there are not opportunities afforded, especially to young people, for indulging in what I think is a very pernicious and wasteful habit—ready-money coupon betting. It is the practice for the promoters of this very lucrative form of systematic betting to have agents in all these works, who are paid something like 10 per cent. on the money which is collected in the works for this form of sport. The most unfortunate part is that, as a rule, those who risk their money in this way—and in most cases lose it—are minors, and very often they are induced to enter upon this very foolish method of gambling by those who are popular in the works and who have been induced to act as commission agents for firms who promote this pernicious form of betting. There was a case in point tried at the Assizes at Newcastle last February. The police had made a raid on the premises of a firm who carried on this business, and they seized 51,528 filled-up betting coupons, a large number of which were for small amounts—2,258 at 6d. each, and 5,487 at 1s. each. It was proved that in four months the bets amounted to £19,476 14s. 7d., upon which there was a profit to the firm of £7,229 4s. 9d., and it was stated in Court that the firm made a profit of nearly £20,000 a year. I may explain for the information of the House what is the kind of inducement held out to these young people. It is done in this way: The dates of League matches are all published months in advance, and with very few exceptions the matches are played on the published dates. Lists of these matches are issued each week, and these lists or coupons are so widely distributed that it may almost be said that there is scarcely a workshop, mill, factory, or shipyard where there is not an opportunity to indulge in this foolish and wasteful habit of football coupon betting. These young people have this kind of offer made to them:—

If you pay down 1s. we will give you 50s. if you name three winners at home and five away out of, say, forty matches to be played that day; or, you pay 1s. and we will give you £50 if you name six winners at home and ten winners away out of, say, forty matches.

The odds are ridiculously inadequate, but to the young and foolish these prices look attractive. Young men and young women think they are going to get rich by indulging in this form of gambling. The Dutch have expelled these gentlemen who promote this system from Holland, and they have now settled mainly in Basle and Lucerne, but they carry on their business by means of active agents in this country. This Bill aims at putting a stop to this temptation, which cannot be good for anybody, which must in the main be harmful to those who indulge in it, and which tends to bring into disrepute a great democratic sport, which on the whole is a healthy and recreative game, and which is very much patronised by the people. The Football Association was formed in 1863, and celebrates its jubilee this year. I ask the House of Commons to help it to celebrate its jubilee by joining the other House of Parliament in making them a present of this Bill, and to help them to purify this sport from the excrescence which has grown upon it, which can be of no real practical benefit to anybody, while it does immense harm to young people in our works who are led into this foolish form of betting. I believe every- body is in favour of it. All the sporting papers are in its favour. The "Sportsman," the "Sporting Life," and the "Sporting Chronicle," all wish to put a stop to this form of betting, and the Turf Guardian Society, which contains the best of the bookmakers and the betting fraternity, have passed resolutions against their members indulging in this form of betting. I hope I may have the support of the whole House of Commons in bringing in this Bill, and in the endeavour to purge this sport of a most undesirable excrescence which in recent years has grown upon it, much to the detriment of the sport and to many of those who indulge in this form of betting.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Hayes Fisher, Mr. Alden, Mr. Evelyn Cecil, Mr. Lloyd, Mr. Samuel Roberts, Mr. Shortt, Mr. Snowden, and Sir Joseph Walton. Presented accordingly, and read the first time; to be read a second time upon Monday next, and to be printed. [Bill 280.]