Opposition Leader Marlon Penn has vehemently opposed government’s Gambling (Gaming & Betting) Control Act, which he said lacks any type of analysis on any potential impact it might have on a cross-section of local sectors when it becomes law.
The legislation, which is still being deliberated in the House of Assembly, would pave the way for legalized betting and gambling in the territory.
Addressing the House late Tuesday night, June 16, Penn said: “As I went through the legislation, it doesn’t just speak to casino gambling, it doesn’t just speak to para-mutuel betting, it runs the full gamut in terms of the type of gaming activity that we intend to have in this territory.”
Penn raised concerns that there has not been an economic impact assessment to see if a population of the BVI’s size can “sustain the casinos, the lottery system, and the potential revenues to be derived from implementing this system”.
“A decision of this magnitude requires the input and proper analysis, not just from us as legislators … I don’t know if the government side has had discussions, but I can speak for the Member for the Second [District]. We have not had any conversation with the experts surrounding this piece of legislation.”
The Opposition leader said one group of stakeholders that could provide financial expertise and input, as fas as discussions go, would be the local financial services sector.
He said the legislation has created a “serious cause for concern” for that sector, “as it relates to gambling and legitimizing gambling without the proper and well-structured framework to regulate, to manage, and to deal with the implications as it relates to money laundering and other issues that surround these types of issues”.
Caribbean Financial Action Task Force evaluating BVI
To further strengthen his point, Penn said the territory is being evaluated by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force — an assessment that had been pushed back because of the 2017 hurricanes.
Part of that evaluation would be to look into all the activities in the financial sector.
“One of the key areas of concern, as always, was the issue of gambling and the implications through the potential for money laundering and the issues that surround gambling. An issue as important as this — and the implications if we don’t get right — has the potential to shatter and do even more damage to that industry. As a legislator, I would have liked to be afforded the opportunity to hear from the persons from that industry, to understand their concerns.”
The legislative process for the gambling Bill has now reached the ‘committee stage’. During this stage, the entire House convenes to privately examine the Bill, clause by clause, and make changes as necessary.
The House is slated to reconvene on Thursday where an announcement will be made on whether the Bill in question successfully passed.
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