Eustace Nancis, Chairman of the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB) during yesterday’s JAC virtual meeting.

The National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB) is betting that gamblers will shift to online due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is now making moves for the digital switch.

This was revealed during a Public Accounts Committee meeting into the audited financial statements of the NLCB yesterday.

Member, Dr Amery Browne, questioned whether any steps were being taken to reduce gatherings at booth locations given the risks posed if social distancing is not adhered to.

According to Eustace Nancis, NLCB’s chairman, plans are still being ironed out to take popular betting games to an online platform.

“ On the mobile gaming, this is at the Attorney General’s office and to give us some guidelines as to how far we can go and to make sure all the legal matters are in place, so this is at the committee stage and at the attorney general’s office for advice.”

Information suggests that online gambling platforms gained a larger user base with the pandemic being the main driver.

The findings of one business report indicated that the online gambling market size is expected to grow from $59 billion in 2019 to $93 billion in 2023 at a rate of 12.0 per cent.

But even while the NLCB is seeking to expand its stake in the industry, there are concerns about gambling addiction among its customers.

NLCB’s director Camille Forde said given the worrying trend, the roll-out of a responsible gaming programme is on the cards.

“ This NGO (non-governmental organisation) that we are working with, they have been working in the area of addiction they have been making requests. The NLCB has worked with them in the past however it does not debar us from working with any other NGO,” she said.

Meanwhile, PAC chairman Dave Tancoo said the industry continues to haemorrhage millions of dollars annually due to illegal gambling. He said immediate action was needed to prevent further losses.

“I don’t know if the Ministry of Finance or NLCB can take this on as a priority initiative to stop illegal gambling in this country and stop the deprivation of millions or even hundreds of millions of dollars over the years from being lost to the treasury. If NLCB’s revenue from gaming is 2 billion dollars and you lose a significant market share you know that illegal gambling is receiving a substantial amount of money that does not re-enter the system legitimately.”