(Trinidad Guardian) – (By Gail Alexan­der) 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.


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