‘12 more months needed to set up gaming laws’
Almost a year since he announced regulatory changes to the local gaming industry in the last national budget, Finance Minister Larry Howai said yesterday the process to get the necessary legislation enacted will take about a further 12 months.
At a news conference at the ministry’s offices, Eric Williams Financial Centre, Port of Spain, Howai said the ministry had established a working group to consider draft legislation for the legal and regulatory framework for the gaming industry, including representatives from the finance, trade, national security and social development ministries, as well as the Office of the Attorney General.
An “internationally recognised” consultant has also been sought to provide legal and technical advice.
Members of civil society organisations, including the banking sector and the Law Association, along with members of the gaming industry will also be consulted.
“The growth in gambling would suggest that there is a public demand for gaming services which is gaining momentum consequent on the access of the public to the Internet for gaming and gambling purposes. The existing legal framework within which gambling takes place in Trinidad and Tobago indicates quite clearly that casinos were not specifically authorised under the law,” Howai said.
Updating the legislation will be one more step in the government’s recent intentions to ensure Trinidad and Tobago meets international standards for financial regulations, especially for anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing.
Howai said the Association of Members Clubs (AMC), many of which have casino-type games on offer, has stated its view for a strong requirement for oversight of gambling activities.
Howai said according to the AMC, the industry employs almost 7,000, has an associated weekly wage bill of $6.74 million, and paid $28 million in taxes in 2012.
He noted that his advice was that if the industry were regulated, the contribution to the Treasury could be almost $300 million.
He also said that there had been a “potential international investor” in the hospitality industry whose international product included gaming activities which said it did not want to operate as such in Trinidad until a properly regulated industry was in place as it could affect its business in other better regulated jurisdictions.
“In establishing a cogent legislative framework the Government would seek to balance the public interest relating to the need for market supervision for the gaming industry as well as the public interest relating to the need for addressing the moral and social concerns relating to gaming and gambling in particular problem and compulsive gamblers,” he said.
He added that a proper system of regulation therefore, will require a regulatory authority with independently-appointed members to administer and supervise the industry.
From last budget
In his 2012/2013 budget presentation in Parliament last year, Howai said of the gaming industry: “Mr Speaker, we intend to bring the gaming industry under more effective control and capture more fully the revenue that can accrue to the Treasury. The Gaming Industry offers a legitimate form of entertainment if it is properly regulated. We proposed to construct a comprehensive framework for doing so. In the short term, and until the management and control structure for the industry can be put in place, we will introduce regulations to manage the industry. These regulations will come into effect on May 1, 2013. We also propose to increase the taxes levied on private members clubs from October 1, 2012.”