Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 13th 2017 Contents BG4 | NEWS
BUSINESS GUARDIAN guardian.co.tt JULY 13 • 2017
In the first of a two-part
series, we explore the world
of legal vices, with a focus
today on gaming and gam-
bling.Every morning at 10 am, Peter
Smith* goes to one of his fa-
vourite locations near his place
of work: the Play Whe Booth.
"You can't win if you don't
take a chance," he says as he
diligently shades in the numbers on the slip
before handing it over to the booth operator.
Peter is a 41-year-old technician from
Chaguanas. He has been trying his hand at
games of luck and chance for over 15 years.
"I started in my mid 20s and I've had some
small winnings. I haven't won the lotto yet, but
one day," he says with a wry smile on his face.
A gainfully employed father of two, Peter
surmises that he has spent thousands of dollars
at Play Whe booths across the nation.
For certain, he is not alone. There are thou-
sands of Peters in T&T.
They all participate for the same reason and
with the same dream: to one day score it big and
change their lives financially as they know it.
Statistically speaking, the reality is that these
individuals have a higher chance of getting
struck by lightening than ever fulfilling their
active gaming/gambling aspirations.
In spite of that they continue, armed with the
belief that lady luck will one day smile on them.
They are part of a vice nation.
The National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB)
sits at the centre of a multibillion-dollar legal
According to statements made by Minister of
Finance Colm Imbert, the estimated revenue
generated by the gaming industry in T&T is
close to $16 billion annually.
Of this figure, estimates suggest that the
NLCB contributes approximately $4 billion
or quarter of the total industry revenue.
The company offers a selection of games
ranging from the daily Play Whe (drawn
four times a day) to the bi-weekly, multimil-
lion-dollar lotto jackpot.
The remaining $12 billion comes from a
combination of private members clubs and
other betting and gaming outlets across T&T.
The growth of the casino industry, in par-
ticular, has been pronounced.
From mega-chains to single outlets, casinos
dot almost every major district across T&T,
with some literally next door to one another.
It is estimated that the industry employs be-
tween 7,000 and 35,000 people and that there
are 200 members clubs across the country.
Sherry Persad represents the voice of the
casino business in T&T.
Persad is the president of the T&T Members
Club Association (TTMCA) and a director at
Ma Pau casino.
A 21-year industry veteran, Persad under-
stands better than most the nuances of the
local gambling industry.
Questioned about why people flock to casi-
nos in Trinidad, Persad said: "For many cus-
tomers, casinos present a great form of adult
relaxation and entertainment. They know they
can come to a fairly quiet, safe place and enjoy
themselves and win money at the same time.
They also get food and drinks so it's really an
outlet of stress release for many people."
Persad noted that one of the greatest misun-
derstandings that people have about the casino
industry was the perception that somehow it
"Our members pay taxes like all other reg-
istered businesses. In fact, we even pay taxes
on our gaming equipment. We have to go to
the magistrate's court to get licences for our
establishments, and since 2015, all members
clubs have had to post a bond of $500,000 for
their operations. So, we are far from illegal. We
even follow a compliance programme as man-
dated by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU)."
Persad added that this perception has had
a negative impact on many of the employees
in the industry.
"Many of our employees have suffered
tremendously and unfairly so. They've been
rejected by banks and other financial institu-
tions simply because they are casino workers.
But these workers are tax-paying citizens like
everyone else. We make NIS contributions for
them," said an exasperated sounding Persad.
The issue of regulating gaming and gambling
in T&T has been one of the biggest challenges
in bringing order to the industry.
Asked about whether her members (52 in
total) were in favour of regulations, Persad said
the collective sentiment in the industry is that
it is long over due.
"We've been lobbying for 15 years to bring
legislation to the gambling industry. In fact,
we believe that poor legislation has led to a
proliferation of casinos in the industry."
To manage the casino and gaming explosion
in T&T, as part of its legislative agenda, the
Government tabled the Gambling (Gaming
and Betting) Control Bill in 2016.
The bill is currently before a joint select
committee of Parliament under review.
Commenting on the bill, Persad pointed out
that the TTMCA had offered its suggestions
on the path forward for the industry.
"We have given our comments and thoughts
on the bill and have shared our recommen-
dations. We hope our recommendations are
considered before any final decision is made."
The Ma Pau director stated that though re-
silient, the gambling industry was not immune
to the economic downturn.
"Spending in the casino industry is down
in line with the overall economic contraction.
As much as people like to gamble, having hard
decisions to make about how they manage their
spending has caused many to reconsider how
they entertain themselves and this has affected
* Name has been changed
Quick facts about
(Gaming and Betting)
Control Bill 2016
• Under the bill, the Government is
proposing the establishment of a
commission, which would be man-
dated to regulate the multi-billion
dollar industry through the collection
of annual taxes and the issuing of
licences to operators and staff of
• The establishment of a rehabilita-
tion fund is one of the major initia-
tives proposed in Gambling (Gaming
and Betting) Control Bill of 2016
• 2.5 per cent of all revenue collected
by the government from regulation
of the gambling industry is to be
used for the rehabilitation of indi-
viduals addicted to vice.
• 5 per cent of all revenues collected
by the proposed Gambling (Gaming
and Betting) Control Commission
are to be placed in a separate de-
velopment fund to provide financial
assistance for national sport, arts,
culture and health projects.
• The commission and its staff will
be financed by the revenue it col-
lects, with the remainder, less the
mandatory contributions to the re-
habilitation and development funds
being transferred to the consolidated
• The proposed legislation will not
affect live and simulcast horseracing
which will continue to fall under the
Betting Levy Board.
Operators Annual Licence
Fees per device or table
1. Baccarat Table: $50,000
2. Black Jack Table: $60,000
3. Caribbean Stud Poker Table: $75,000.
4. Dice Table: $35,000
5. Regular Poker Table: $30,000
6. Roulette Table: $60,000
7. Rum 32 Table: $75,000
8. Sip San Table: $75,000
9. Slot Machine: $12,000
10. Every other table or device: $30,000
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