Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 10th 2015 Contents A7
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There is strong belief that T& T s
casino sector has been infiltrated by
organised crime elements, Finance
Minister Larry Howai said yesterday,
adding some businesses didn t want
to operate in T&T since the casino
sector was unregulated.
He made the point in piloting a 95-
clause legislation to regulate the
decades-old sector, encompassing
aspects from owners and operators to
bookmakers and key employees, plus
protection of minors and vulnerable
Regulation is proposed, via a Gam-
bling Control Commission, which will
establish a licensing framework and
stringent criteria. It requires a three-
fifth majority vote in Parliament for
However, the Opposition PNM
objected to the bill, citing "excessive
criminalisation" and stiff penalties.
Howai said the legislation would
seek to control money laundering and
anti-terrorism financing regarding the
growing industry in T&T. He said it
was an area with potential and pos-
sibility for money laundering, since a
lot of cash could pass through.
Stressing it was important to present
organised crime from infiltrating the
sector, he said the legislation would
assist in dealing with the situation.
Howai said any attempts to stop the
industry, put it "underground" and
criminalise it, would only make it
worse. He said the industry was very
extensive, was growing and had serious
consequences for family life and
Club employees are estimated
between 7,000 and 12,000; amuse-
ment gaming centres around 10,000
(and up to 20,000) and there are 11
Average annual betting intake is esti-
mated around $600 million, though
that measure is largely unreported .
Howai said consultation on the bill
was held with stakeholders in 55 meet-
ings as well as scrutiny by a team of
experts representing the banking,
social, ICT and chartered accountant
sectors and Tobago. Foreign legislation
and procedures were also examined.
Howai on Gambling Bill:
Ex-senator to Diego
Why the delay
Director of the Arbor and Rosewood schools
and former senator Philip Hamel-Smith is
demanding answers from the Diego Martin
Regional Corporation as to why the final stamp
of approval has not been given by the corpo-
ration, despite Works Minister Suruj Rambachan
approving the school s traffic management plan.
At a press conference at the proposed site for
the schools, 129 Long Circular Road, Maraval,
yesterday Hamel-Smith said Rambachan approved
the plan on June 1. "This was the only condition
that was left outstanding from the Diego Martin
Regional Corporation for the schools to reopen
but some nine days after we have not heard a
word from the corporation," Hamel-Smith added.
He said he wrote a letter asking what was the
keep back as the corporation had been asking
for the plan since February.
"The plan took us longer than expected but
we got through with it. Since September last year
we had gone to the Town and Country Division
and we had gotten approval without the need to
go to the Highways Division so we never went
to the Highways Division. "But the Diego Martin
Regional Corporation then told us we needed to
do that and now that we have done so we cannot
understand what is the delay by the corporation,"
Saying it showed a "total abuse of power" by
the corporation, Hamel-Smith said for the past
nine months some 200-plus pupils have been
locked out of the schools. He said efforts also
have been made to contact the corporation s
chairman, Darryl Smith but was yet to receive
a response. Expressing his frustration, Hamel-
Smith said parents were also "blue in the face"
as their children s future was hanging in the bal-
"We really think that the Diego Martin Regional
Corporation has gone too far. They have absolutely
no reason to be denying these children their right
to an education and we just cannot understand
what could be the motive. "We ask ourselves,
what could possibly be the motive for the cor-
poration to be sitting on their hands for the last
week while all of the approvals are in front of
them?" Hamel-Smith asked.
Calls to Smith s cellphone went unanswered
When contacted councillor for Belle
Vue/Boissiere Kern Solomon said he only heard
rumours that "some approval" was granted but
was yet to see the documents.
Solomon said he had been busy with several
meeting and was expected to go to corporation s
"Unless I see the documents I will be in a
better position to comment," Solomon added.
Residents of Lower Maraval and of Champs
Elysées Road had protested the opening of the
schools at the location, claiming it will cause
traffic congestion in the area and that the school
was planning to open without necessary planning
permission and approval from the Ministry of
Earlier this year the corporation took the
schools board, EDFAM, to court and obtained
an injunction which prevented them from opening
at the start of the new school term last September.
The substantive lawsuit over the corporation s
failure to grant the schools approval is yet to be
HOW WILL IT WORK?
PNM senator Faris Al-Rawi said the PNM wanted
to support the bill as the casino industry lends itself
to corruption and perversion but he complained the
PNM only received the bill yesterday and had
expected the Government to send it to a special
committee for perusal.
He accused the Government of not giving notice
of presenting the Bill and had expected the
Beverage Recycling Bill instead after debating
another Bill for 13 hours on Monday.
Al-Rawi said the Bill involved "excessive
criminalisation" and questioned the justification for
penalties, such as a $5 million fine and five years' jail
for false statements, $1 million fine and one year's
jail for cheating at gambling, a $5 million fine and
two years jail for viewing gambling proceedings
During the lunch break he spoke to casino
workers in the Parliament public gallery.
Licences will be required for ownership of gambling
establishments, betting activities, selling/leasing
gaming machines, import/supply of licensed gaming
machines, installing/maintaining/repairing devices, doing
gambling on premises and other aspects, including for
directors, associates and key employees.
Licences can be revoked if a customer feels
threatened, a licencee has committed a criminal offence
or if false information is given regarding licensing. The
Gambling Control Commission's regulator can issue
licences, impose penalties, verify employee backgrounds
and can inspect records, premises, devices and
determine if an offence had been committed. Licence
applicants will be required to submit to in-depth
background checks into their finances, businesses,
taxation, as well as criminal records or other records.
The commission will be empowered to check into the
licensing of any business, including probing each
applicant, associates, key employees and do interviews.
It can also request finger and palm prints of personnel
in keeping with anti-money laundering and counter-
terrorism financing regulations while significant
shareholders will also be scrutinised as well as key
employees and trustees.Offences include a $1 million
fine and one year's jail for cheating. Other criminal
offences include doing business without a licence,
gaming in public places, failing to co-operate with
authorities, giving false statements and allowing minors
to gamble, enter gaming halls or employing them.
Absolute restriction on gambling by minors, under
age 18, is proposed. Codes of conduct for dealing with
patrons is also proposed. A rehabilitation fund will
assist gambling addicts and their families and a
development fund will channel funding to the arts,
culture and other aspects in communities. Under the
Bill, schools, religious bodies or residents or
communities can object to the presences of casinos in
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