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Gamers wary of new anti-money laundering regulations

Published:Sunday | January 10, 2016 | 1:00 AM

Jamaicans who use the services of gaming lounges across the island are describing the newest set of anti-money laundering regulations, expected to take effect in April, as inconvenient and a breach of privacy.

New regulations that are to be implemented by the Betting Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC) will require each gambler to go through steps similar to that of opening a new bank account, including providing proper identification and reference letters. Source of funds must also be declared.

The BGLC is the designated, competent authority charged with the task of monitoring the compliance of local gaming-lounge operators pursuant to the Proceeds of Crime Act and its regulations.

Last week, the BGLC said that since 2013, guidance notes have been issued which set out the specific requirements, and two rounds of sensitisation workshops and training seminars were held with gaming operators.

The BGLC said it expected operators to implement appropriate customer due diligence, identification and verification procedures.

When The Sunday Gleaner contacted gaming lounges for comment, some managers, while stating that they were co-operating fully with the programme, were a bit tight-lipped on how they expected the regulations to affect their customers.

However, a few gamers and employees at lounges voiced their views on the matter, with most persons expressing concerns.

One female employee from a popular gaming lounge in Ocho Rios, St Ann, who requested anonymity, said she was not fully aware of the plans and, though the idea was fully supported by her, she outlined a downside - losing customers.

"I think it's going to affect us," she said, referring to the fact that customers might not want to give too many personal details.

"Some of them don't even want their families to know where they are spending time. There are a lot of reasons," she said.

"You know Jamaicans are afraid of changes. Everything is going to be a problem, once it has rules and regulations. They will say, 'a gamble we a come gamble. Why we need fi do this?'"

At the Macau Gaming Lounge in St Andrew, a regular gamer said the changes were not welcome.

"I think they're going overboard. This is entertainment, even though it's gambling. I think the Government is taking it a bit too far, if that's what they're trying to say," said the gamer, who gave her name as Jackie.

 

Lottery games too

 

Jackie also said she believed the lottery games should be subjected to the same conditions that will face the lounges.

One man, who said his name was Trevor, said the new policy was "a real breach of privacy".

Dwayne, describing himself as 'a principled youth', said his only concern was to know how far the Government was going to take the new regulations.

"If the Government have something fi do where money laundering is concerned, I don't have a problem with that," he said.

The BGLC has indicated that it hopes to extend the policies to the entire industry but, initially, only gaming lounges will be affected.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com