By Stephen Kangal
November 16, 2016
When beleaguered and now politically isolated Finance Minister, Colm Imbert introduces on Friday a Gaming/Betting Control Bill 2016 in the House designed to regulate and bring under strict legislative jurisdiction a mushrooming and widespread but illegal Gaming Industry he must abandon his penchant for flaunting his boyish political immaturity. He must give due credit to former PM, Kamla-Persad-Bissessar for all the hard work invested on the comprehensive and insightful law- creating process that commenced with the 2013 Budget Statement of intent announcing the new regime. These are the firm building blocks of the new gambling and betting shops regime.
There is no doubt that the Rowley Administration both on this occasion and previously is piggy-backing on the excellent. Incisive, international and domestically consultative -based bills such as this Gaming Bill 2016 in order to impose a long-outstanding legal order and regime over the illegal proliferation of casino gambling and gaming machines. The industry if unregulated can serve as siphon to foment and encourage money laundering, the financing of terrorist activities and other negative practices that can challenge and tear the moral fabric of T&T.
Although the then Opposition PNM was absent from the House on 27 May 2015 when the 2015 version of the Bill was passed with the requisite three-fifths majority (26) it appears that they, that is to say the PNM brigade have now seen the light of reason, judgement and this long festering sore on the almost underground and subterranean landscape.
The Partnership did an excellent job. It bequeathed to the PNM a comprehensive legislative legacy geared to address this complex and demanding subject in spite of the self-centred and parochial objections now being raised by the casino clubs owners. Why did they protest in May 2015? Were they asleep after a night of black-jack and slot machines?
These casino owners want to delay the passing of the draft legislation by sending it to a Joint Select Committee. Thus will give them a respite from the strict control measures so that they can continue to exploit and profit immensely from the current unregulated industry without paying the requisite license fees and adhering to the stringent enforcement/oversight/licensing mechanisms proposed therein.
All the relevant bases of the industry have been taken on board including consulting international standards prevailing in several jurisdictions that will have the effect of attracting foreign investors in a nascent industry and contribute to revenue diversification.
I hope that this maverick, non-performing PNM Government can suspend its cheap arrogance and treat the Opposition with respect on this matter and others so that the latter can be persuaded to give its support to achieve the requisite three- fifths majority for the Bill to go forward to the Senate.
The Gambling Bill 2016 when assented to will eliminate and dismantle the current free-for-all that the casino owners want to perpetuate exclusively for their continuing partisan Illegal group benefit.
For them law and order must be subordinated to laisses-faire and tokens galore.