Attorney General (McGrath) v Healy

[1971. No. 244 SS.]
Attorney General (McGrath) v. Healy
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (at the Prosecution of Superintendent B. M. McGrath)

Criminal Law - Lottery - Bingo - Prize-winner selected by game of chance and the answering of a question - Whether defendant had promoted a lottery - Gaming and Lotteries Act, 1956 (No. 2), ss. 2, 21.

Cur. adv. vult.

Pringle J.:

[Having stated the facts, continued as follows] The Act of 1956 does not contain a definition of a lottery, save that in s. 2 it provides that: "'lottery' includes all competitions for money or money's worth involving guesses or estimates of future events or of past events the results of which are not yet ascertained or not yet generally known."This provision was considered by Davitt P. in Bolger v.DohertyIR2 where he said at p. 235: "This 'definition', if it be such, would exclude Bingo as well as all lotteries in the ordinary sense of the word; and the first principle in the construction of statutes is that a word should where possible be given its ordinary meaning. No doubt there are cases where the word 'includes', as used in a definition section, has been held to be equivalent to 'means and includes'; but that is not its ordinary meaning. When a definition section in a statute provides that a word shall 'include' something, it implies usually that that something would be outside the ordinary meaning of the word and that it is necessary, therefore, to include it in the meaning of the word for the purpose of the statute."

The President then went on to refer to other definitions in the Act of 1956 in which the word "means", and not"includes", was used and he held that the wording of the section did not have the effect of excluding the usual meaning of the word "lottery." This decision was upheld by the Supreme Court where the Chief Justice, giving the judgment of the court, said at p. 236: "This appeal fails. The Court accepts the reasoning of the learned President of the High Court as wholly correct. It is not possible to read the word 'includes' in s. 2 of the Gaming and Lotteries Act, 1956, as other than a word of enlargement. Prior to the passing of the Act of 1956, this term 'lottery' had a generally accepted meaning and, in particular, it had been the subject of judicial definition: see Barrett v. Flynn.IR3

The Act of 1956 must be considered to have been enacted with this definition in view. That definition clearly includes the game of Bingo as described in the Case Stated." InBolger v. DohertyIR4 the court was concerned with an ordinary game of Bingo, which would correspond to the first part of the proceedings operated by the defendant in this case and which would clearly be a lottery.

Although, as I have said, the word "lottery" is not defined in the Act of 1956, its meaning has been considered in a number of cases both in this country and in England and is now well settled. In Barrett v. FlynnIR5 Cherry L.C.J. said that the game of "House" with which the case was concerned, and which was essentially the same as Bingo, was a game of pure chance and therefore a lottery. He cited the Imperial Dictionary definition of a lottery which was "An arrangement for the distribution of prizes by chance among persons purchasing tickets," and the definition in Webster's Dictionary which was "A distribution of prizes by lot or chance." In Scott v. Director of Public ProsecutionsELR6 Lush J. said at p. 874 of the report: "The word 'lottery' indicates clearly enough what is the offence aimed at by the statute, and...

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