Imbert: Has the casino industry made promises to UNC? - Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Saturday 16th May 2020

FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert has questioned why the Opposition has declined to support gambling legislation despite crafting the legislation and creating regulations.

He was piloting a motion in the House to adopt the report of the Joint Select Committee on the Gambling (Gaming and Betting) Control Bill 2016. In a vote on the motion all 14 Opposition members abstained and it therefore fell short of the required three fifths majority for adoption.

Imbert in his contribution said every time Government tried to pass legislation the Opposition gave very spurious and trivial objections.

"Why? Why? Could it be that they are being lobbied? Could it be that promises are being made by these people to the members opposite? What is it? What is the reason? Why is it you don't want to end the exploitation of these workers in casinos, a lot of them are single mothers?"

He also said the workers had no freedom of association or ability to join a union.

Imbert said there have been attempts to regulate the industry since 1999 and the previous UNC administration allowed legislation to lapse three times. He said the Gambling (Gaming and Betting) Control Bill was introduced in May 2015 but upon the dissolution of Parliament in 2015 for election it was allowed to lapse.

Imbert stressed that the July 2016 bill brought this administration was identical to the UNC bill of 2015.

"We did not change a semicolon."

He said the bill was examined by a committee for three years and there were a number of debates on it. He reported that regulations were approved by the UNC government and Cabinet before the election despite Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal giving a "long song and dance" about where the regulations came from.

He claimed that a number of people in the local casino industry who were associated with illegal activities.

"We all know this. We cannot close our eyes and pretend it's not so."

He said the industry generated $16 billion in sales but pays a fraction of that in tax.

"A serious leakage of revenue for the country."

He also claimed many of the owners were foreigners who export US dollars through the black market.

He said TT was the only country in the world with an unregulated casino industry and there were issues of children being exposed to gambling and money laundering. He also said banks were refusing to deal with casinos or allow them to open accounts because they do not meet the test when it comes to money laundering.

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