Colm Imbert

Big framework to regulate and control the betting and gaming sector.

The wave of provisions includes licences for owning a gaming establishment and for key employees—and also allows teachers, religious body representatives or parents to comment on applications for establishment of such business in their area.

But at this stage there may not be the level of sophistication and capacity to monitor Internet gambling.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert detailed the 88 clause bill yesterday in the Senate.

He said Government worked on the matter for six years.

“It cannot be that we have an unregulated gaming and betting sector in T&T with foreign interests from Eastern Europe and the Far East controlling significant influence in our gaming sector without regulation, and a situation that’s been there for 50 years, be allowed to continue,” he said.

The bill can be passed by a simple majority vote rather than special majority. It had been opposed in the latter form. He said Government had faced tremendous opposition from some UNC members but also witnessed tremendous support from some UNC members also.

T&T’s unregulated sector is the only one globally. Imbert said it’s governed by archaic legislation and an overhaul has been outstanding for very long.

He noted current laws governing the sector are outdated.

As far back as 2007 reports on T&T noted private members’ clubs operating as casinos and 147 recreation clubs allowing gambling.

A 2017 report noted significant presence of private members’ clubs, high cash turnover and nature of clients and banks refusing to do business due to perceived risk of the industry.

The latter situation continues today. And the situation didn’t prevent criminals from being owners, having a significant interest in or having management function in such entities—especially private members’ clubs.

Given the need to deal with money laundering and terrorist financing it was advised the matter be addressed .

A June 2019 report noted the current framework wasn’t geared to realising the true potential of the sector as a significant source of Government revenue. Tax compliance was also an issue.

Among provisions, a minimum of 11 licenses will be established ranging from allowing certain type of operations to technicians installing and repairing equipment.

Application for a licence shall be published by the Gaming Commission (being established) in at least two newspapers and the public can comment.

Objections can be raised on the granting of a licence by any resident of, or business owner in the area where the proposed licensed premises are located.

This can also be done by any school principal, teacher or parent of a student of a school in the area, representative of any religious group in the area as well as “interested parties,” the THA Chief Secretary or municipal corporation.

Clauses cover people encouraging children to gamble or employing them.

Imbert said the bill had nothing to do with the bar industry and amusement gaming machines which are in bars.

They’re regulated by the Liquor Licence Act.

He said the Barkeepers and Operators Association of T&T (BOATT) had a change of leadership and a former alleged “disgruntled” BOAT leader met the Opposition to get them to protest against this law.

Teron Mohan, former BOAT head, was sworn in a temporary UNC Senator yesterday as UNC’s David Nakhid was absent.