The legislation outlines the establishment of a Gambling (Gaming and Betting) Control Commission that will oversee regulation of the sector in the Caribbean nation and take responsibility for licensing and revenue collection.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert said that the sector – worth an estimated $16bn per year — would contribute around $500m in taxes and fees once the commission is fully established compared to just $75m at present.
The bill creates a framework to protect minors and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling and ensure that gambling is conducted in a fair, open and responsible manner. Building on existing legislation, regulation is designed to prevent gambling from being linked to crime and ensure compliance with international anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing regulations.
Individuals involved in operating gaming establishments or activities related to the sector must obtain a licence from the commission. While online gaming remains unlawful, licences relating to legal activities range from Gaming and Betting Operators Licences to Gaming Machine Manufacture Licence.
Those who operate illicit gambling activities without a licence or do not adhere to the terms of their licence are liable to a criminal penalty of $5m plus five years’ imprisonment.
The bill lists the taxes on tables as including $120,000 for every Black Jack table, $150,000 for every Caribbean Stud Poker table, $120,000 for every roulette table, $120,000 for every electronic roulette table and $24,000 for every slot machine.
The commission will be managed by a board nominated by the country’s President, featuring between six and 10 members with experience in the gambling industry or fields such as
law, finance and information technology. A chief executive will also be appointed for a five-year term.
The commission will ensure that licensed and gambling activities are conducted in a fair and honest manner and formulate and implement policies and codes of practice, and has the power to grant and revoke licences.
The bill was introduced in the Senate earlier this month and passed through the committee stage earlier this week. It was formally passed by the house on Wednesday with no votes against, but 15 abstentions among 36 members.