Saturday 22 February, 2020

Opposition Leader: More discussion needed on gambling legislation

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said more discussion is needed on the The Gambling (Gaming and Betting) Control Bill, 2016.

In a statement, Persad-Bissessar said that both sides agree that there is need for further discussion through a Joint Select Committee (JSC), since many persons and businesses will be affected by the Bill. 

"There is a great measure of consensus on the aims and objects of the Bill, and on most of the provisions of this Bill, and both sides agree that there is need for further discussion in the Joint Select Committee."

"This industry has so many persons directly and indirectly employed, and generates significant turnover."

"The Minister of Finance stated that there are 200 private members’ clubs, 20,000 amusement/gaming machines being operated and 20,000 slot machines being operated in bars."

"We were aware of the reach and depth of this industry, which is why we caused the 2015 legislation to be brought to this House."

"The gaming sector has a turnover of about $12 billion per annum, employs about 7,000 some say directly, that figure could be 10,000, while indirectly 20,000 benefit from the industry.

"Mainly women are employed in the sector, we interacted with them through their Association of Casino Workers.

"The sector offers employment for low-skilled workers, and I understand that many single mothers are employed.

She said Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, in discussing the Bill, did not comment on the fact that the legislation infringes on property rights.

"The Attorney General was vocal on another occasion, pointing out all the flaws in the Bill, when it was the 2015 version, when he talked about infringing rights but failing to say which rights were being infringed; when he pointed out concerns about how persons were to be appointed, the qualifications of Commissioners, all these concerns, lo and behold in November 2016, because he is sitting on that side of the House, he has nothing to say about those concerns."

"The AG in November 2016 did not tell the House that this Bill infringes on property rights, and for someone who told this Chamber that there is no right to privacy, he said that this Bill breaches privacy and personal data rights."

"The Member did not say what rights were being infringed, but spent the majority of his contribution speaking about crime and criminality."

"When the Attorney General contributed to the debate on the Bill in November 2016, he said that nearly $21 billion was spent on the Police Service since 2006.

"The AG also lamented that there were only four money-laundering cases and the criminal justice system was operating at a grinding pace.

She questioned government's promise to hold consultations and said they are not to be trusted.

"The Minister of Finance told the House on Monday October 5 2015 that a tax regime would be introduced, and he intended to fast-track the Bill with appropriate amendments arising from consultations with stakeholders."

"The Member for Port of Spain North/St Ann’s West pointed out that 14 consultations were held with 50 organizations, and during the People’s Partnership Government numerous consultations were held.

"Then on October 20, 2015, in the Senate, the Minister told us “We will amend and pass the Gambling Act after appropriate consultations.”

"But six months later, the tune changed – no longer was it that the bill would be amended after consultation.

"We cannot trust anything they are saying. On January 11, 2016, the Minister said we will bring the Bill to the House to regulate the industry, which will come with amendments in the first half of 2016.

"We fast forward to July 4, 2016, the mid-year review was brought, and the Gambling and Insurance Bills, we were told - as is, where is.

"On September 30, 2016, the Minister repeated that it was intention to debate in Parliament the same Gambling Bill.

"We come to November 18, 2016, when the Minister actually piloted the Bill, the Minister said the Bill before the House is the exact Bill from 2015.

"We ran track changes, and there have been changes.

"Why did the Minister and Attorney General take so much time to insist it was the same Bill?

"The Honourable Attorney General told an untruth to this House in his explanation why the Bill was to be brought in the exact format as the 2015 Bill.

She said the Minister of Finance was wrong in saying that the Bill had gone to a Joint Select Committee.

"The Member for Diego Martin North East was very careful in his contribution to not say that I agreed, because I said we cannot trust them, I would have to see the Bill."

She said she does not agree with the Attorney General that crime has been dealt with and asked how many more must die before government 'wakes up'.


To read the Bill see here: 

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