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UNC Senators Damian Lyder, left and Jearlean John on their way to yesterday’s sitting of the Senate, where debate on the Gambling (Gaming and Betting) Control Bill continued.

The Government could stand to lose $250 million if they outlaw gaming machines.

Opposition senator Damien Lyder gave that figure during his contribution to the Gambling (Gaming and Betting) Control Bill 2021 debate in the Senate yesterday.

“By outlawing these machines, these roulette machines contribute $120,000 per year to the Government coffers and that is 2,000 bars. So the Government stands to lose a potential $250 million,” he said.

“And if the Government is not currently collecting that $250 million, well that is where they should get the revenue.”

He said outlawing the gaming machines would add to the Government’s shortfall in revenue.

Lyder said that the bill shifted the gamblers from the organised and regulated gaming facilities to the illegal ‘Whe Whe’ men.

He said if it were not for the lockdown, people would be protesting this bill outside the Parliament and described it as a “hurricane” imposed on the citizens by the Government.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Amery Browne challenged Lyder’s description of the bill and said that it was in fact critical and important to have the proper regulations and control to protect people.

Browne described a scenario where a criminal put large sums of money on a bet and then cashed that in for clean money. The innocent person sitting next to that criminal would be an unwitting accomplice to a crime, he said.

“When we have a naive approach to these discussions, you might feel we’re talking about petty crimes. What we are seeking to control here is linked to global issues, to potential terrorism, to money laundering, to organised crime, to the mafia,” he said.

Browne said that Lyder had created a “straw” argument and proceeded to battle it in order to appear that he was more in support of small businesses than the Government.

“I want to confront that,” he said.

Browne said large and small businesses were being protected by this bill.

“The reality is that the playing field is not level. In an unregulated environment that currently exists, organised criminals could easily open a large sports bar in the neighbourhood and swallow the small bars in an unregulated environment,” he said.

Browne said the proper legislative framework protects all business sizes.

He detailed instances where women with gambling debts were trafficked into another country and forced into sexual slavery, where children were thrown into the trunk of a car and warned that their gambling father owed money.

“I want to make the link between heavy casino debts and death,” he said.

“Does this sound familiar?” he asked.