Proposed legislation to regulate the gambling and gaming industry will require operators to contribute a percentage of their revenue to two funds to help gambling addicts and develop various sectors.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert spoke about the provision, which is among the 90 clauses in the proposed Bill to regulate the sector during debate in Parliament on a report from a Joint Select Committee which had examined the legislation since 2018.
“This Bill has had a long, tortuous history,” Imbert said, noting that the law had been in the works since 1989.
He said international experts had told him T&T was the only country with such a large unregulated gambling and gaming sector. He also revealed that JSC deliberations on the Bill had involved many stakeholders, from casino personnel to police, and had been fine-tuned with international experts. He added that Government had “bent over backwards” on the matter but one JSC member had dragged out the deliberations.
Imbert said he couldn’t contemplate, after four years of work on the long-overdue Bill, the Opposition not supporting it “unless they had a motive.” He said the Bill was the same one from the People’s Partnership Government.
Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar interjected: “It’s not the same Bill.”
Among provisions, Imbert noted, industry operators would have to contribute two funds to assist addicts, NGOs and with development of local sectors including health, sports and communities.
Imbert said there might also be legitimate concerns about allowing casinos in residential areas.
Other clauses in the Bill expand the betting definition to include betting on the oil price and other situations. Cheating is covered by and some clauses pertain to a Commission to govern the sector.
Citing the volume of licenses in the legislation, Imbert said “if and when” it is passed the bill will properly regulate the sector. However, it will have to be passed first and regulations for the sector dealt with after.
Opposition MP Rudy Indarsingh accused Imbert of being disingenuous by accusing JSC members of “dragging out” deliberations.
He said Imbert himself had said that the JSC lacked experts and as such much examination was needed.
Indarsingh noted that the gaming industry employs 20,000 people with 75 per cent being women, including single mothers. He read the testimony of Ayanna Francis, of Laventille, on how her job assisted her family.
Also yesterday, Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte said plans for improving the water supply to Tableland and other areas is being examined. He couldn’t give a definite timeline for improvements to Tableland which he admitted had been getting water only once a week for a “long time”. The minister said the improvements will cost $70 million.